This is what you will hear from most people in their teens or 20s who live in Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale, and other areas of the county. It’s okay for me to say this, I am a native to Kitsap County. (I do have a point to starting off the blog with this, just be patient.)
There really isn’t much to do in this area. The mall gets old really fast and…well I guess that pretty much somes up all there is to do. In the time I have spent in Kitsap County, I have spent much time following the local music scene. Most bands that play in the area tend to either tend to be enjoyable because of just how terrible they are or they are either simple adequate for listening. Though bands weren’t always terrible, there was not much to them other than they were local.
To me, that’s why Alligators was such a special band.
I know I’ve already written a blog about Alligators but given the circumstances and the 4 years of my life I have dedicated to following this band, I feel entitled for at least this final elegy. If you have never listened to or heard of Alligators and you are still reading I commend you and hope you will get something out of this, because this post isn’t just about the music.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. for me, Alligators was always set apart from the rest of the Kistap music scene. Their sound was bigger than our borders. It was easy to tell early on. While the popular thing to do was screamo, they were playing pop songs. They clicked with me right away. I remember sitting outside, suffering through multiple hardcore bands just to hear them play a short set of catchy songs at the first of their concerts I went to. The room was dark, it was very warm outside, and most people had been scared away by the screams and guitar wails of the opener bands.
That was 4 years ago.
Fast forward to March 27. The band is playing their last show at The Charleston on Callow Avenue in Bremerton, Washington. After two opening bands the delightfully sketchy venue is packed to see the headliners give their final bow. For their final show the band decided to go big and play every song they had ever written as a band.
This was, perhaps, one of the most nostalgic experiences of my life. Every few songs I would just exclaim “Oh my gosh I can’t believe they are actually playing this song, that’s from when they first started!” This all may seem ridiculous, I mean it was only 4 years of following them. For a bigger band, 4 years is a short amount of time but for a local band 4 years is a lifetime.
Alligators was the one band to come out of Kitsap County that I had most faith in to make it big. They weren’t just another “pretty good,” band. They were original. Pop music. No matter what prefix you put on it, whether it be Indie-pop or pop-rock or whatever, at the core they were a pop band. When I interviewed them last year they described their music as “interesting pop,” and I think that gives a pretty solid image.
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy moral lesson from a Disney movie, seeing the whole community come together for Alligators’ last hurah was really moving. It made me actually appreciate where I grew up, if even just for a moment. Just seeing the electic group. It wasn’t just the typical hipster, American Apparel, flannel crowd you usually see at Seattle shows. It was just real people dancing and singing along to every word of the band’s songs.
In the middle of the set a good friend of mine came up to me, grabbed my shoulder and shoke my hand and said, “Thank you. You were the one who introduced me to this band.” And he was truly sincere. Alligators meant a lot to people in Bremerton and the greater Kitsap area. Now that they’re gone I’m not sure what is left of the music scene there but it doesn’t really matter.
The band had a semi-official motto/catch phrase. “We are Alligators.” Again, not to sound like a Disney or Hallmark Channel moral lessons, I feel like that night at the Charleson we were all Alligators.
Wobbly voice. Shirtless. Bizarre. These were some of my preconceptions of Devendra Banhart before attending his concert last Thursday night. And who could blame me? After listening to his albums “Rejoicing In The Hands” and “Nino Rojo,” along with most of the pictures of him floating around the Internet, it would be easy to think this.
To my surprise, Banhart’s performance was something totally different. His sound has evolved since those early records. It is no longer the modest acoustic guitar playing with shaky singing. Banhart is now more Rockabilly than psychedelic hillbilly.
I must confess, I have always been on the fence with Banhart’s music. Typically I sway more to thinking it is ridiculous but this show perhaps awoke the side of me that was partially intrigued by his sound. Playing with a full band added some more charm to songs. Much of the audience was provoked to move around and dance during the upbeat tracks.
Banhart’s singing has become a lot more approachable, yet still maintains the unique flavor he captured audiences with in his first albums. The Venezuelan folk rocker does not lack in stage presence. His eccentric movements while he sang matched his bizarre but endearing personality. Bringing his arms close to his chest and extending his fingers outward, he would sing with his eyes shut tightly and immersing himself in the music.
There was a small break in the set where Banhart took the stage and played acoustic guitar by himself. From my experience of going to shows, when the lead singer steps out to play by his or herself tends to be the most emotional and memorable part of the set. Strangely enough, at this show the acoustic segment was the weakest part. I was looking most forward to the acoustic songs because they were the medium I was most familiar with hearing his songs in. He openly noted he couldn’t remember the words to a lot of the songs people in the audience requested.
The new, livelier Devendra Banhart could be seen as selling out but in this case I think it is just evolution of his sound. He seems to have focused his music better. This psychedelic rockabilly mixture keeps Banhart unique without scaring people away. While I don’t think he should be a headliner like he was last Thursday at The Showbox at the Market, he could be a solid opening act for a larger act.
Take a journey with me, if you will, to the distant time of 2006.
It was the best of times; it was the hippest of times. Things were simpler back then. The genre of “College Radio” was finally getting its big break under the moniker of “indie rock,” even as emo music crowded radio waves. Suddenly it was cooler to play folk tunes on an acoustic guitar than shred metal riffs. It was a time where if a band had a violin or cello in their line up, it was the most mind-blowing thing possible.
All of these things are now overlooked and expected, but in 2006 it was fresh and new to the semi-mainstream culture. Amidst these indie sojourners trying to make it was Tacoma, Wash. band Some By Sea with their release “On Fire! (Igloo).”
This band is best looked at in the context of the 2006 I set up at the beginning of this post. Nowadays there are bands popping up left and right trying to capture the originality and sound bands like Some By Sea had.
Melodicas, cellos, and synthesizers. When I first heard the band at their CD release show, I had to take time to comprehend what was happening. I was still a fledgling little hipster wannnabe (still am, by the way) and had never experienced something like this.
There was something strangely symphonic about the band. The sound was rich and full. Chris Du Bray’s vocals rival The Decemberists Colin Meloy’s voice, only without the wobble and strain. The band just had a mature sound. The melodies did not seem forced and flowed naturally from track to track. Rachel Lee Bowman’s vocal harmonies and cello playing and a warmth to the often times delightfully over zealous songs.
Lyrically, the band was fabulous. There are many one-liners that stick out, such as “Well, as soon as I get back from London, I think I’ll write a book on how I’ve never actually been to London,” and “look what I made without your heart getting in the way.”
Looking back at this band in 2010 is a breath of fresh air. It didn’t seem like they were trying to be hip or just copying another indie rock band. It was before indie music seemed to just be obscure for the sake of being obscure. They were genuine and refreshing.
You may notice that I am speaking in past tense. Unfortunately in late 2006 Some By Sea broke up. Du Bray and Bowman went on to form the group Ghosts & Liars, which had a sound remarkably similar to Some By Sea, but that band to disbanded in 2008. “On Fire! (Igloo)” can still be purchased on iTunes or on the label’s website http://kringlerecordings.com
Lady Gaga has been getting a lot of public praise over the past year. Repeatedly audiences cite her as being original and breaking the mold. As admittedly someone who does not resonate with ultra mainstream pop, I decided it was time for me to look at what makes people so gaga for Gaga in this multiple part series titled “Deciphering Gaga.”
I think the best way to understand an artist is to look at an example of his or her work; in this case I will be using lyrics exclusively. I hope to get a better image of her personality, her convictions, her past, and most importantly her craft. Today I will be doing this by examining her latest radio hit “Bad Romance.”
A person’s vernacular says a lot about them. Gaga makes a unique choice beginning her prose with the vowel “o.” The “o” sound shows openness, almost inviting. Like the shape of the letter, the sound is very circular. It grabs you, much like an embrace with an old friend. Thus we can decipher that her vowel choice was intentional, if taken from the aspect of being an embrace. The running theme in her literature is romance and needing of touch. What Gaga is really asking for is a hug.
So one letter into the song and we already have some insight into Gaga. She is leaving herself open to audience and wants embraced. She then leads us out of this prologue, if you will, with the line “caught in a bad romance.” This just arises more questions and ideas that we had already preconceived. Gaga wants embraced, but her lover is inadequate in some way. At this point we’re not sure if her is simply unsatisfactory for her ideologies or if the partnership is immoral in some way. Maybe this romantic interest is simply not giving her the right amount of attention, i.e. not giving her enough hugs.
Gaga takes a different approach with the chorus. As she warms us up with pity for her predicament in the introduction, she double takes with an exclamation of self-empowerment.
Ra ra, ah ah ah
GaGa, oh la-la
Want your bad romance
It is as if she is saying, “I am Gaga, I have overcome.” One has to admire that level of pride and self-confidence. Putting her own name in the song’s refrain also takes a certain amount of humility that ties in with the introduction. She is putting herself out in front of the world, leaving nothing hidden. She is saying, “Yes, this is Lady Gag and yes my romance is not one that is particularly well.”
Next Gaga starts to sink your literary teeth into this unnamed lover.
I want your ugly
I want your disease
I want your everything
As long as it’s free
It seems she deliberately attributes this to the mystery character, removing herself from the messy descriptions. What struck me interesting was her decision to phrase the first line of the verse as “your ugly.” It is not that this lover is ugly, but somehow contains “ugly.” This person is not perfect. Perhaps she is being more transcendental, implying that bodies are just shells for the souls inside of them. This would help make a case that Gaga is the Thoreau of our time, by I digress. Everything about this is filthy. This love is bad because it is somehow wrong, but she is finding some sort of greater good in it. Hey Gaga, your philosophy is showing.
In further verses she goes on to say she wants the character’s horror, design, psycho, revenge, etc. Balancing all that she consistently ends with “I want your love. Love love love, I want your love.” Outside of her sanity, or perhaps unethical desires, what Gaga is really looking for is love. Gaga is covering up her simple human needs with endless metaphor and innuendo. Gaga, it is okay. We want you to be happy. We want you to have that sincere hug that you have been searching for.
I want your love and
I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance (oh)
The self-esteem seen in the other chorus, the empowering “Gaga oh la-la,” is balanced by this humble pleading. Even though this lover has so much wrong with their character, Gaga wants it. The way she describes about how the two of them could write a bad romance clarifies that she isn’t perfect either. She ends this with the aforementioned vowel.
Reading into these lyrics helped me realize how human Gaga is. She is not just a pop icon to me anymore, she is a person. I’m starting to unpack this complex package that is Lady Gaga. Stay tuned for more blog posts where I dig deeper into Gaga’s psyche.
This should not come to you as a surprise. If you’ve been paying attention at all you could have seen this coming. It’s time we work somethings out or I’m leaving you forever.
Every year you come into my home, professing yourself to showcase the best in music, and every year I end my evening cursing under my breath and drowning my grief in a pint of Häagen-Dazs. I don’t know why I even keep coming back to you year after year. Maybe it is some self-righteous obligation I feel for the music industry, as if I need to pay my respects to those musicians who are “living the dream.”
It seems to me that your award is losing its prestige. While once winning a Grammy meant an artist was making significant strides and breaking the mold, it now means that the performer is just really, really good looking and has a great marketing team.
It would be foolish and overly pretentious of me to say “You need to give awards to such-and-such unknown indie artist! They deserved it way more. The mainstream sucks!” While I do think that some of the best musicians are undiscovered, I recognize that is not what the Grammy awards are about. This is a celebration of artists who appeal to the masses with their talents.
Mainstream pop music is not bad in itself. Don’t let the hipster culture fool you, music can be catchy and admired by a wide audience without selling out. Your lifetime achievement award recipient this year, Michael Jackson, is the perfect example. However with all of the music that is being produced and recorded, why is it that we see the same artists every year doing things that are less than spectacular?
Must Beyonce and Green Day always win? Ask yourselves, were they really the most talented acts to come out of 2009? Nothing against them personally, it’s just hard to see why they deserved the supposedly highest honor in music. “21st Century Breakdown” is probably Green Day’s weakest release to date yet it won Best Rock Album (in fairness, your other nominees were also less than spectacular and since when is Dave Mathews considered “rock”?)
I question the judgment of the Grammy committee. There needs to be a better way of deciding the winners. Perhaps a mix of voting between the committee and the general public, not just for choosing the winners but for the nominees as well.
Grammys, if you want to keep me around you need to treat me right. There are plenty of other award shows I can be spending my time with and I’m a desirable enough demographic. Get your act together and maybe, just maybe, I’ll tune in next year. I don’t want to hate you. Make me love you again.
I would like to give one word of thanks to you. That is for finally revealing rapper Will.I.Am’s identity as a hip hop cyborg. It was time that the world knew the truth.
Oh the sweet sounds of Americana; the kind of music that seems to be a soundtrack for the Rocky Mountain landscapes. This almost patriotic feeling could only come from… Sweeden?
While “Guinness World Records” may not recognize Sweedish singer Kristian Matsson as The Tallest Man On Earth, that doesn’t mean the music community can’t. If Bon Iver is the Paul Bunyon of indie rock, The Tallest Man On Earth is Johnny Appleseed.
Matsson’s first full length release “Shallow Graves” feels like it came right out of the days of trapping pelts or travelling on the Oregon Trail (Obviously I’m not a history major. I just make analogies by gut feeling). The traditional hillbilly guitar sound and occasional banjo plucking give Sufjan Stevens a run for his money.
The lyrical content doesn’t help any case he could have against me calling his genre “traditional folk revival.” Most of his songs have to do with ideas of nature. In the song “This Wind” he opens with the line, “Nobody knew what the raven would do if he found you with rain in your hand.” It is really refreshing. With the hustle and bustle that comes with living in a city as industrial as Seattle, sometimes it is nice to escape. The Tallest Man On Earth helps provide that escape.
Matsson’s voice even has an earthy feel to it. The first time I heard a recording of him singing, I was not sure what to make of it. I think I may have first laughed out of confusion. It sounded like he was growling. As I listened further, it all made sense. This was the sound that we imagine is attached to the frontiersman music. If he had some All American Rejects soft voice the music would not stand out or be as moving.
In his song “The Gardener,” Matsson pleads with the audience that he wants to “stay the tallest man in your eyes.” Mr. Matsson, you are standing as the “tallest man” in folk right now (figuratively speaking) by going deeper into the roots of the genre than most dare. The Tallest Man On Earth shows that folk music wasn’t always just a guy playing an acoustic guitar and harmonica, it had a spirit of nature and human emotion.
Hear his music in the video below or on his Myspace at the link provided.
Confession. In the summer of 2006 I followed the reality show “Rock Star: Supernova.” Lets just get that out of the way right now.
This masterpiece of prime time television promoted its self as the edgier alternative to American Idol (ironically featuring a large amount of alternative music…har har har).
The show followed former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, and brief temporary Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke as they searched far and wide for a lead singer for this OH MY MOSES SUPER EPIC ROCK GROUP. Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro also hosted it.
As a 16-year-old guy, this sounded amazing. It was so rock-tastic. As I have aged and gained wisdom, I can look back and see fallacy in my judgment. Sometimes it takes hindsight to recognize the problems of the past.
The band eventually decided on professional mumbler and former Hooters cook (as he mentioned on the show) Lukas Rossi.
To say the least, their debut record was inspiring. The album was self-titled, because honestly there is no better title. How else could you come up with such an epic title without over abusing a thesaurus? (Although “Ego-Driven-Wash-ups Destroy Their Careers in a Similar Fashion That a Star Explodes” would be an equally fitting title).
Going along with their theme of titles that show just how super-awesome they are, the album opens with the track “It’s on.” Just the name itself warns the listener by saying, “hey, I hope you illegally downloaded this album and didn’t waste your money on it because either way IT’S ON and you’re going to be our victim for the next 40 minutes.”
After the fuzzy and clumsy guitar in the opener, the album really gets down to business. There have been many love songs written throughout the ages, but none as endearing as Rock Star Supernova’s “Leave The Lights on.”
From what I’ve gathered, something sexual is going on in this song but don’t quote me on that. There are some parts where the audience is left with questions, such as in the chorus. When Rossi sings, “come on and leave the lights on if that’s your thing, it’s better for the camera’s if you know what I mean,” I get baffled. What could he possibly mean? The band could use some fine-tuning on being more straightforward.
Just after this modern day Song of Solomon, comes another spiritual moment. It seems the band was somehow able to channel the spirit of front man Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit through Rossi on the song “Be Yourself (And 5 Other Cliches).” While he does not rap on the track, his articulation and attitude could only be mistaken with the likes of Durst.
Everything about this song is just so edgy, but not in the cool way. It’s not cool because it is trying to be edgy. Also, what in the world does “keep it on the level” even mean? It appears that Supernova thinks they’re using some cool frat house slang but are oblivious to the fact that it’s not a real term.
Blog readers, I have a challenge for you. Dim the lights, burn some candles, put on something comfortable and go to the band’s website http://www.intothesupernova.com and just soak it in for a little bit. Make an evening out of it. Visit each members bio page. Make sure you rotate between the four multiple times because they do change. When you get to Jason Newsted proclaiming “I like bass,” and then asking “who likes to rock? Who likes to roll?” you’ll know that you’re getting the right experience.
But all of that aside, nothing can truly capture Rock Star Supernova, as for any band, more so than the music. I dare you to enjoy.
Here are a few bands that keep me up at night, fearing the worst.
5. Twisted Sister
Photo Courtesy of Razor & Tie Records
Imagine Dee Snider appearing behind you after you open a Christmas present. The video should give you a clearer idea if you are failing to imagine the horror. Twisted Sister has never been the band you take home to mom, now they have made it clear that you should not take them home for the holidays either.
4. Foxy Shazam
Photo Courtesy of Ferret Music
I actually had a chance to interview these guys for an article back in November (Shameless plug, I have no shame). They are nice guys…but I still feel like singer Eric Nally could bite my head off at any time, just by accident. Also the keyboardist challenged me to a wrestling match. I live in fear, awaiting my fate.
3. Missy Elliott
Photo Courtesy of Atlantic Records
I fear that which I do not understand. There is so much happening in this song and video. I feel the world is still trying to catch up to it. I understand Missy Elliott is not a band, but whatever. Her music does still sometimes give me the heebie jeebies sometimes.
2. Arch Enemy
Photo courtesy of Century Media
Everytime Angela Gossow sings I feel as if I am going to be possessed at any moment. Metal always has growls and demonic screams, but this one feels way too authentic. I can admire the charisma…I just can’t admire the feeling that she wants to eat my soul.
1. The Polyphonic Spree
Photo courtesy of Good Records Recordings
There is nothing funny about the occult. Period. I feel like there is nothing I could possibly say about this band that this video will not explain. They are by far the creepiest band to exist.
Think you know scarier bands? Let me know and comment below! (That rhymed, unintentional).
On Jan. 1 Gregory Scott Slay died at the age of 40 after a longtime battle with cystic fibrosis. Slay was drummer of the defunct band Remy Zero.
Remy Zero is a band that forever changed how I looked at music. Before I listened to them, I did not even care for music much at all. Ashamedly, I first heard of them through the song “Save Me” which was the theme song to the superhero teen drama “Smallville” (please, do not judge).
After that I picked up the album “The Golden Hum”. And so the love affair began.
Their previous album “Villa Elaine” is what really got me devoted to the band. It was far beyond “Save Me.” Cinjun Tate’s dynamic vocals, the passion with every note plucked and strummed, Cedric Lemoyne’s driving bass lines, and of course the drums.
Slay can never be replaced. His drum lines were compositions in themselves. He did not settle for a standard 4/4 rock drum style. Everything was so intricate. I’m sure I’ll be discussing this band frequently on this blog, but right now it is just a time to remember the life of a great musician.
On the blog for Lemoyne’s project O+S, he released a post discussing how Tate came down to visit himself and guitarist Jeffery Cain to reconnect after their friends untimely death. Upon this reunion there is talk about making music together. Some under the Remy Zero moniker and others under their various side projects. Some of these workings will be based upon recordings and pieces Slay left behind. More can be read at their blog here.
I will update as more information comes in, but right now there is no rush. I can think of no better tribute for a lost comrad who not ony affected the lives of the members of the band, but fans all around the world.
With that, I give you one of the greatest drum works of all time.
In August of 2006 I went with a couple friends to see a show at Coffee Oasis in Bremerton, WA, featuring a band that I heard of that sound promising. The location was pretty seedy, but usually that’s a sure sign for a good show by my standards.After enduring multiple hours of Kitsap County’s poorest screamo bands (and by enduring I mean we sat outside under a flag pole for the majority of the time) the band I was so curious about made the stage.
Their set was short, but it showed great promise. I bought their demo for something like $1.10 (I believe they were just asking for donations). This was one of the best deals I’ve ever made.
Alligators don’t have a reputation for being the friendliest of animals. The band Alligators doesn’t have a reputation for being the friendliest of pop-rock either.
I interviewed the quintet from Bremerton, WA last February for The Falcon and they explained to me how they are developing their own style of “interesting pop.” There is something “interesting” about Alligators’ music. When the music starts, it seems very approachable. The beginning melodies stick in your head like a virus, the kind of virus you don’t mind having.
Then something happens. Vocalist Joshua Trembley starts screaming. Not the As I Lay Dying or mewithoutYou type of screaming, but the type of screaming Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin might do if his voice was hooked up to a distortion pedal. At first it is offputting, but then it becomes endearing.
Trembley’s voice could be a make or break for potential fans. For me personally, it adds a unique element to the band. Perhaps I am just jaded because I have been following the band for so long. But honestly, the music is just well orchestrated. There are no gimmicks.
Synths, cellos, and horns are crafted into the tracks on their debut album “Piggy & Cups” masterfully. What Alligators do best is experiment with pop music. They can create songs that sound radio-friendly, such as “Where Does It Hide?” but also experiment with more worldly percussion in the transition from the track “Way I” to “Magic Woman.”
Just as mysterious as their music is, so is their falling out. Alligators announced this past month on their Facebook.com page that they will be breaking up. It is hard to tell farce from truth. They released statements that because Trembley is pursuing a career in meteorology and that the rest of the band will be reforming as a cover band with a steady weekly gig at a local Bremerton bar.
Just because the band is now defunct, doesn’t mean that their music cannot still be enjoyed. Check out their website and Myspace.com page to listen.