Mark Curdo

Mark Curdo

Sounds Good, But Not To Me: Music We Just Can't Get Into

The most dangerous part of being a music fan is that I like so much music. At a young age in the '70s I can remember being exposed to bands like Spyro Gyra, The Platters, Devo, Cheap Trick, Buddy Rich, Claudio Villa, and The Bee Gees to name a few.

As I grew up and started to make new friends, I watched MTV practically from day one, so I have all that pop and new wave stuck in me. Then enter rap music and heavy metal in the early/mid-eighties. I was break dancing to the soundtrack of Beat Street with friends and listening to Iron Maiden and Ozzy with other friends. College was mostly Coltrane. And some grunge, Bob Marley, Faith No More and hip hop’s greatest years. And so on and so forth. As days pass, we engulf ourselves in new music we find. It’s a wonderful journey.

So why is it dangerous? Well, when you collect music, that open-mindedness makes the shopping list a bit out of control. You don’t pass on much. On a recent record hunt I walked away with Robert Palmer, Sisters of Mercy, Mojo Nixon, Brian Ferry, GBH, The Goons, Jason and the Scorchers and the soundtrack to The Odd Couple.

Luckily though, there’s one form of music that I’ve always saved money on over the years: new country. No matter how much I love music or how open-minded I am (and trust me, I’ve heard and own some really weird shit), I can’t do new country. And it’s basically gotten to a place where I get super irritated whenever I hear it.

It pretty much goes without saying that everyone likes Johnny Cash, and rightfully so. Patsy Cline too. I’m even all about George Jones, Merle Haggard, Hank, Hank 2, Hank 3, Tammy Wynette, Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris, Dolly and some others. You bring me the new kids though? That pop-meets-Southern flavored concoction and I’m out. How about those new country dudes wearing baseball hats sideways and waving their hands like they’re in a rap group? Oh boy, is that annoying.

I’m a fan of pop music and the forms it can take, but this stuff always comes off as fake, soulless plastic to me. It’s not adventurous. It’s all too similar. I try, though. The musicianship on these records and on stage are always top notch. Country artists always have the best musicians backing them. They also took over the live music game — rock 'n’ roll, you got robbed! Country concerts are now KISS meets U2 meets Michael Jackson and they pack in massive crowds. Still, that’s not enough to sell me.

Over the years I’ve come to like (or tolerate) quite a few bands, but new country still hits an ongoing roadblock with me. Will I continue to try to understand it? At this point, probably not. I’ve done enough to come to the table on my own. It’s about time the music serves up something at the table worth chowing down on.

I asked a few local music friends if there’s any music they still can’t work into their collections.

Tim Tierney (Owner, The Studio)

"I definitely have a love/hate thing with prog-rock bands. I always admired the musicianship, but there were too many bands making overly produced, unmemorable music. When punk came along it ended up being the perfect antidote."

Shane Reis (hip hop artist)

"I don't understand screamo music. How someone could sit and listen to another human scream (try to emulate a dying animal) is absolutely wild to me. I can go out on a limb and say I understand listening to it before a football game (if you’re playing it in) or maybe prior to a fight. I often question a human’s integrity after finding out they listen to screamo music."

Spencer Albee (musician)

"The Boss. I've never been able to get into Bruce Springsteen. Too much hollering all the damned time. Sure, I like a couple of his songs, but I haven't been able to tap into that vein of adoration that so many millions have. That said, I refuse to write him off because someday I may see the light, so I keep a copy of Born to Run and Nebraska in my vinyl collection in case the spirit moves me. This same tack worked for me and Insane Clown Posse. Just kidding. They're c***s."

Kevin Billingslea (guitarist, Too Late The Hero)

"I've never connected with excessively happy music. Bubblegum-pop and the like. It's always felt so mechanical and fake to me. I've always loved sad music because it always makes me sad. Not that I enjoy being sad, per se: but I like that it can invoke that feeling in me. But happy, poppy, sunshine and farts music always bounces right off me."

Kelly Huston (singer, BeautifulWeird)

"One band that came to mind that I have never gotten into and definitely don't see myself ever being able to like is Five Finger Death Punch. To me, they sound like bad wrestling music that's missing their attempt to be heavy."

Xander Nelson (musician)                                                                                                                                                                                

"I've never been a fan of death metal. The constant screamed vocals, at least to my ears, almost seem as if they’re trying to get you to turn it off. I always listen for melody in music, regardless of the style, and death metal just doesn’t seem to have much there. But to the genre’s credit, not having a melody is pretty punk rock."

Happy Anniversary Already — Why Do We Celebrate Music Before It’s Due?

Have you noticed music acts are celebrating album anniversaries all the time now? Between reissue releases, box sets and tours, there’s no way to dodge these anniversaries, and I have to be honest, it’s getting a bit annoying. 

Why is there this need to honor and celebrate so much these days? And when we do celebrate why aren’t we waiting for a more appropriate, time tested opportunity?

Every time you turn around lately some emo band is firing up a 10th-anniversary tour for their album that only super die-hard fans know or care about. Or there’s that classic rock band performing an anniversary show for an album that contains one or two songs known by most casual fans. Oh, and there’s only like two original members in the band.

I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer and rain on someone’s tribute, but you have to admit that self-administering your own album recognition is a bit... bloated in thinking, perhaps. Who’s to judge when an album is cherished enough to have a birthday party? I can’t really say for sure, but I’ll take a swing at it here I suppose. 

U2 recently skipped around America playing The Joshua Tree in its entirety to acknowledge the album’s thirtieth year of release — that worked out well. The band is still one of the biggest in the world and the album is cover-to-cover legendary. The music, the sound, the influence: all important. It just doesn’t hold the same weight as a band born post-MySpace celebrating ten years for one of their barely known records. What's so special about 10 years? I have cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup on my kitchen shelves older than that! Guided By Voices put out about fifteen albums in the past ten years! Is a decade enough time to deem an album worthy of celebrating?   

We don’t allow things to mature properly anymore. Let these records thicken with more admiration over time. Why must we rush every single thing these days? That answer is simple: because we can. Unfortunately. The on-demand, swipe and download world these days gets it when they want it. I guess patience is a lost art. It’s a shame because the lack of it certainly ruins the overall experience I believe. 

The anniversary rush thing is partially instigated by record companies lets not forget. Since the sales of albums have continued to decline, “Record Company Inc.” has to find a way to create a product that will sell. So, many of them dig into their back catalog and they bring back records that already sold well for them. They slap a “20th Anniversary Edition” sticker on it and add a few liner notes written by Dave Grohl or Jack White and there you go! The labels spend no money in the studio, there are no hassles with the artists creating new material; they just put that same record out in a celebrational way and people buy them. Again. Happy Anniversary! Cha-ching!   

I think the gimmick of awards shows in recent times has nudged this trend along as well. We seem to be patting ourselves on the back way, way too much and it’s getting worse. Awards shows are out of control. I don’t watch any of them anymore, but they’re coming at us left and right now. The TV stations see it as a valuable program for ratings and advertising, artists see it as a chance to be recognized for something when it's so tough to “win” anything these days with record sales dwindling and of course the viewers can just sit at home and control world trends by hashtag-ing their asses off over every outfit, speech and over the top performance during the show. Thanks to all of this we now have more awards shows than ever needed and now everyone gets to go home with a prize! 

Business is a big part of these anniversaries for sure, but I don’t think it’s the only reason. I do think artists want to instigate something. Success in the music industry today is tougher than ever, so maybe an anniversary allows for some type of success points for an album’s duration.  

Are we worried that without pre-mature anniversaries or extra awards shows artists won’t find a chance to be valued? Shouldn’t your work be the only spotlight you need? To point out the fact that one of your albums is ten years old and you’re going out to tour and support that short term landmark is basically saying we believe this album is already important enough to parade around waving its colors. Most times, it’s not that important. Other times, not yet. 

True fans that are in line to support that ten year anniversary have all the right in the world and certainly should enjoy themselves. Go right ahead, diehards! Real fans are gold. But, don’t kid yourself into thinking that stating the age of an album makes it more loved or more precious in the big picture. It’s simply a reason for a party and that is ok! Short-term anniversary tours should be parties, not forced recognition evaluations. Marriages, now they are to be celebrated at any interval! They are worthy of a one-year, five-year or ten-year anniversary without a doubt. Fall Out Boy’s second record? Yeah, not so much.      

Brick by Brick: The Story Behind Builder of the House

If you haven’t been to a Builder of the House in the past few years, you’re missing out on one of the most interesting and honest acts around.

After failed attempts with previous music, according to himself, singer/songwriter Rob Cimitile took another shot in 2011 at making music. The stars seemed to align that time around. 

After releasing a first EP, Cimitile carved out his project's proper place and form. By the time a second EP was released, Hourglass, musician Eliot He’eschen who’d been involved in the recordings found a solid, full-time spot in Builder, making it a duo presentation. 

Now with their first full-length release, Ornaments available online (in-stores soon), the pair seem to have hit their stride. Builder’s sound moves from the pretty and gentle hush touch of Nick Drake to the barefoot, organic, playful world beat movement Dispatch. Bare feet on the ground, head in the sky, and always heartfelt.  

As their latest album is upon us, Cimitile and He’eschen are ready to take Builder of the House to the next level. They deserve to be on the next level, even if they've already achieved inner peace. I spoke with Rob Cimitile of Builder of the House about his music, what the band’s intentions are and how he found happiness by giving his music another chance. 

I spoke with Rob Cimitile of Builder of the House about his music, what the band’s intentions are, and how he found happiness by giving his music another chance. 

Your music feels very personal. The themes and intensity make it feel like it comes from a place deep inside. 

The first EP, I Am a Tidal Wave, was hyper-personal. On the second EP, Hourglass, I ventured away from this and told some stories about others. One of these stories was tied to my ancestry so there was still a personal connection there.

On Ornaments, I’m writing outside of myself. One device I use is basing a song on a saying or story I find interesting or meaningful but from my perspective. For example, “Pray for Me” was based on a Robert Frost quote, “The best way out is always through.” Applying it to our current political and cultural crisis. “When No One Is Here” was based on the saying, “You are who you are when no one is looking."

Who has influenced you most in music?

Builder of the House would definitely not exist if it wasn’t for Conor Oberst and his band, Bright Eyes. They were a major influence on the writing style of our first EP and were the reason I got back into writing music. Our sound has evolved from those roots, but the influence is still there.

Your balance is remarkable. Great songwriting, great records, great artwork and some of the best music videos I’ve seen come from this music scene. I don’t feel you’d be the same band as a digital release only type of band. You’re not that breed. 

We could, but we don’t see that happening. For us, each piece of what we do — recordings, artwork, live performance, videos — are all part of the overall experience. If one piece were taken away, or not given enough attention, the whole just wouldn’t be the same.

Why do you make music? What do you hope to get out of the experience?

I got back into writing and performing music because I wanted to make some kind of a difference. I’d like to think some of the music has made a difference for people. I’m better at music than I am at anything else I know of. I just have to make music. I'm a happier, healthier person when I do.

The name of the band is interesting. Any story to it?

In 2010, I was going through a rough patch. Things started looking up after I discovered meditation. I attended a Vipassana meditation retreat, which supposedly is the form of meditation Buddha practiced, though I’m sure that’s debatable.

During the retreat, we watched video recordings of S.N. Goenka, a teacher of the practice. In one of the videos, he recited a story relating to Buddha. Picture the Buddha, sitting under a lotus tree, meditating for a very long time. Refusing to eat, or sleep, or move from that spot until he attained enlightenment. Then, the moment came. 

First, every memory he had in this life and in previous lives flooded his consciousness. One memory was of himself as a young man from a previous life. This man was trying to cure human suffering, just as Buddha was. The man approached a sage from his village and asked him how he can end human suffering. The sage said, “You must first know the builder of the house.” The young man did not understand what the sage meant at that time. Buddha then opened his eyes and said, “Ahh, Builder of the House I have seen you. You can no longer build a house for me because I have taken away your mortar. I have smashed all your bricks.” That story hit me hard. The phrase Builder of the House stuck with me as a reminder to always try and be better, try and do the right thing. 

_____________________ 

Builder of the House will celebrate the release of Ornaments on September 2nd at One Longfellow Square. You can find their new album now on iTunes digitally and in stores at Bull Moose very soon.

The Best Advice I Can Give Anyone Making Music

It’s been a busy time lately in the music scene with quite a few local releases. New artists and ones we’ve known all out there doing their thing. As release dates approach, I’m often contacted by folks trying to get a game plan in place. Musicians ask me for advice or help with things and I’m always glad to do what I can, if I can. Beyond writing my column here, I’ve been seriously involved in music for about 30 years now. I’ve always been open to talking with musicians about what to do, how to do it, where to do it, when to do it, etc. I offer suggestions based on my experiences and belief in the music world.

Before a note is played, however, every musician, singer or songwriter should ask themselves Why am I doing this? What do I want from music? The reason is your own. Whatever it is — to be a big music star, to make great records, to jam with friends, to explore, to play shows, to take over the world, to change the world, to ignore the world, to release something personal — as complicated or as simple a reason, you should think about why you do it.    


For folks that don’t know me beyond my writing or my years at WCYY, I’ve been close to music since I can remember. A passionate fan, follower, and collector since I was a young kid, I eventually got more involved in the music world by high school. Since then, I’ve worked at four record stores, managed bands, was VP of National Marketing and Promotions for an indie record label in New Jersey, started a record label of my own, promoted shows, hosted concerts, hosted a music video show in Boston, written reviews and articles, given lectures, been on commercial radio for 13 years, helped run my college radio station and even dabbled as an artist many moons ago. I’m proud of my involvement in music over the years. I got to see and be a part of so much. I’ve been lucky enough to do more than most get to do in the industry over the past three decades. With those experiences, I grew to understand the business, the trends, the artists, the industry, the media, the drama, the success, the struggle and all the things that keep the record spinning.

Then, everything changed. All of that understanding and know-how and ways of doing things were put in a blender, thrown into a washing machine and tossed on a tilt-a-whirl full speed. Oh, and someone broke off the handle.


Good luck figuring out the music industry today. You can’t. No one can. Folks at big record labels wearing suits that cost more than your car haven’t a clue. They think they do and act like they do. They don’t. The truth is the industry was on cruise control for so long. The biggest change I can think of in the music industry from the '80s through most of the '90s was the arrival of the CD. Other than that, it was smooth sailing. Music sold well and people supported their favorite bands faithfully. We knew how to get our music. Musicians knew how to succeed. It didn’t mean they would or could, but they knew the paths to getting a shot. You had to work at it, like with anything, and have something special.

Cue technology! That’s what really messed up the works, folks. For good and bad. Mostly bad. One day the weather's nice and the next day we have websites, iTunes, Napster, digital music and the beginning of the collapse of music retail. The biggest problem with change in the music world over the past 20 years hasn’t necessarily been the technology itself, but the pace of which we’ve had to adapt with it. Once you do learn a bit and think, “Ok, phew, let’s figure this out now...” BAM, seconds later, here comes the new thing we have to learn. 

We haven’t had time to process these gifts and inventions and decide how to use them best. When I say we, I mean your band and Paul McCartney too. Everyone. We all haven’t been able to take a minute to lock into the newness. Change has followed change in music and it isn’t easing up. 

Aside from technology, radio, print, TV and live venues have changed a lot. That doesn’t help. You need a team player here and there who believes in your music. Many are hard pressed to find those people. When you do find good people in music, hold them, treat them right and never let them go! Trust me. I can say that from being on both sides of that situation.

As local musicians reach out to me lately they seem more lost and confused than ever. That’s a shame because under their arm they carry their life. Their music. Their passion. They have this thing and what are they supposed to do with it, what can they do with it, who will help? This thing could change our lives.

So, how does one “make it today?" What is, “making it today”? Is it worth trying to “make it”?

Friends in music, I’ve said this a lot of people and I share it with you now as the best suggestion I can offer; make the music you want to make and make it the best you can for you. Unload what's inside you onto that recording and later on stage. Sleep at night knowing you’ve made the music you wanted to. In 20 or 30 years when you look back at listen, acknowledge your legacy. That music happened and you should have no regrets. If you can “make it” that way, then you’ve made it overall I’d say. At the end of the day, all that matters is the music and that’s something technology can never change.    

Homecoming: What Keeps Bebe Buell Rockin'

In a time where rock 'n’ roll has lost a lot of its shine, its sparkle, its bark and its bite, we need some artists to stay true to form. We need someone who never caves into the projections and the trends. Rock 'n’ roll used to be a real thing. An honest thing. It wasn’t so planned out and stripped of its rawness. It was there in the bloodline of the streets, swerving through the malls, popping out of magazines and hot on your radio. It was exploding on stage.

 

Luckily, one of Portland’s favorite former inhabitants comes home this weekend to bring that honest rock 'n’ roll spirit back to us with her show, “Baring It All." She's a mother, musician, model, manager, muse, mover and shaker. I'm talking about Bebe Buell.

 

People who’ve watched the Cameron Crowe classic Almost Famous think they know all about Buell. That’s a super small portion of the story. Bebe’s life would be hard to capture in a single motion picture. Her involvement and influence on not only rock music, but the culture and lifestyle that surrounded it is worthy of a mini-series.

 

Born and raised in Virginia makes Bebe a Southern gal, technically. The South is deep in her heart and soul, but the years to follow would prove she belonged everywhere she landed. The Sunset Strip and New York City were the pulse of rock 'n’ roll in the late 60s and 70s and BeBe was right in the center of it all. A popular model, fashionista and a rocker deep down, Bebe was Madonna meets Jerry Lee Lewis at a Warhol party.     

 

It was during her time in Portland in the '80s when Bebe put her own stamp on the scene. Through two bands she initiated in town, Bebe made her own noise. The tall, slim blonde crowding the microphone stand swaying back n’ forth, did it all herself, inspired from being around the greatest names in music.

 

Since the '80s, Bebe's been rockin’.

 

She moved from Portland about eight years ago. Her and husband musician Jimmy Walls/Wallerstein (Vacationland, Das Damen) moved back to New York City. They’d eventually head to Nashville — "Music City" — where they still live to this day.

 

This Saturday, Bebe makes her way to Portland House of Music & Events for a special “storyteller” type show with her band, The Rebel Souls. It’s also a continuation of Bebe’s birthday week so expect a party! Bebe is beyond excited as are her friends here waiting for mama to bring some rock n’ roll home. I had a chance to chat with Bebe prior to her Portland return.  

 

Talk a bit about what you've been doing lately down in music city, Bebe. 

 

Nashville has been an awakening and craft-honing experience. Like finishing school. The only thing Music City is missing is the ocean, because it's got everything else. It's a healthy music scene and people really love to go out and see music live. What I've been doing is just working as hard as I can and making what's to come next on my journey.

 

I know you can appreciate music of all kinds, but there seems to be a major lack of rock music lately. It's vanishing from the mainstream, radio, award shows and sales charts. In your opinion, what gives and what will it take to bring it back to the good stuff?

 

In Nashville, "rock" music is exploding again. I play often with Thee Rock 'N' Roll Residency, who are as true to rock music as anyone can get. I think what will bring "rock" music back to the mainstream are the fans. People want to see entertainers who move from their hearts and soul ... not their sample tracks.

 

What makes a good rock star to you?

 

A great entertainer cares about his/her audience. I know when I'm onstage I can feel the energy from my crowds and they map out how the evening goes by what they send me energy wise. That's why I still do this — I actually love what happens when I'm onstage. I love the adrenaline and the rush.

 

What keeps the fires burning for you to continue and stay with it, Bebe? 

 

I'm not sure that's definable. It's just who I am. I wake up wanting to rock. Wanting to create music and play live. The feeling I get from playing live is right up there with all the most precious things in life. Some of us are just born to do this, and it's my happy place. I'll show you up close and personal on Saturday... 

 

Any current favorite bands right now?

 

I like Royal Blood, The Struts, Cage The Elephant, The National, Blackfoot Gypsies, Margo Price and all Jack White (projects). Of course, classic rock which is a mainstay in my palette; Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, The Flamin' Groovies ... I'm a sucker for a great song — I don't care what genre it is. A good song is a good song.

 

I’m sure you miss Portland…  

 

I have a connection to Portland that stays with me wherever I go. My musical connection is especially important because I formed my first two bands in this city, The B-Sides (1980-1985) and then The Gargoyles (1985-1991). There will be lots of stories in my show this Saturday and many of them include tales of the vibrant 1980s Portland music scene. I'm over the moon to bring my show, "Baring It All," to one of my "home" cities. 

Jeff Beam – We've Got Love for the Underdog

Somewhere buried deep in a beat up, but solid green army duffle bag is a bunch of cassettes and 8-tracks. There’s some Beck, Sean Lennon, Flaming Lips, Elliot Smith and a copy of The White Album outtakes. You’ll also find a pair of vintage orange pants lost by someone in San Francisco back in 1967, a thin yellow scarf, a Speak n’ Spell connected by Bluetooth, a sombrero type hat, a small paperback copy of On The Road, a Harry Nilsson button and a “Feel The Bern” t-shirt. This is an official Jeff Beam overnight bag.

For about a baker’s dozen years now, Beam has been writing and performing a mind-bending blend of singer-songwriter based psychedelic music that can be found on about ten solo releases at this point. That’s a heck of an effort. That along with a quality stint in The Milkman’s Union that brought him everywhere, time in The Stereo Flys (Boston), half a year with the Rustic Overtones, Beatles Nights, that wonderful Bowie Tribute concert, various Clash of the Titans appearances, shows at just about every venue in town and possibly one or two in your neighborhood’s backyard. Jeff Beam is out there, always. He is writing and recording, always. He might not be all up in your face with his business, but that’s not his style. A bit shy, but hugely prolific with the goods. Plays almost every instrument in the room too. He’s one of the great people in our scene. No one has a bad word to say about Beamer. Folks like him, Dominic Lavoie, Myles Bullen, Kenya Hall and a few others from our local peace sign.

In my ongoing series asking local music people to share with us a “wow” or cool moment in their busy years; we’ve come to a real special story. Imagine covering one of your favorite band’s music and they show up! The extra coolness here is it happened in Portland. Stories like Jeff’s create a huge spotlight for our city on the big scale. This story became super buzzy in the following days thanks to social media. When artists enjoy our city and share that enjoyment publicly, people take notice. That's good for Portland and good for our musicians. 

Jeff Beam:

I got the idea to do this show from when Kyle Gervais (KGFREEZE, then Grand Hotel) did a Pixies tribute years ago at The Big Easy. A few of the Pixies showed up and watched. I'm a huge fan of Spoon; they were set to play the State Theatre back in June of 2015, so we decided the night of their show to cover two of their earlier albums, Girls Can Tell and Kill The Moonlight. I picked Empire because it was a closer walk to the State Theatre. The band playing with me then (Sam Peisner, Sean Morin, Jacob Wolk, Scott Nebel) was well rehearsed.

We tried a few different avenues to let the band know about the show. I think they all reached the band. Holly Nunan (Frank FM) was clutch. She connected with Britt on Instagram and let him know. We put a few concert flyers backstage at the State Theatre. Keyboardist Sean Morin's girlfriend won a contest on WCLZ to go see Spoon's soundcheck. So, Sean went to that with her and invited the band personally.

After Spoon’s show at the State ended, we started up our show down the street. There were about 50 people in the crowd. Just as we were finishing Girls Can Tell, Spoon showed up. A palpable excitement spread across the room. The band and I had kind of an "oh shit" moment when they arrived since we hadn't really planned on what would happen after that.

At one point, their keyboardist Eric Harvey jumped up on stage and joined in on "Back To The Life". We did one more song to finish the set, then the rest of Spoon jumped up, took our instruments and showed us how it's really done. 

Britt (Daniel, Spoon frontman/songwriter) told my dad how surreal it was to see our gig because I was about his age (27ish) when he put out Kill The Moonlight, which is what we were playing when he saw us. Britt didn't really find success right away as a professional musician, and I kind of believe that can make all the difference in someone's temperament and ego. Make no mistake, he's a bonafide rock star on the stage, but to a couple that swagger with graciousness and humility — unreal, and a true role model. 

Britt and I have stayed in touch a little bit since. He mentioned that he wanted to make me part of the show the next time Spoon came to town, and he's a man of his word. We're opening for them July 22nd at the State Theatre. Come early, we're on at 8 pm sharp.

Follow Jeff at jeffbeammusic.com and on Facebook at JeffBeamMusic | Oh and don’t forget to see Jeff and Spoon’s interaction from 2015 on YouTube! Search Spoon & Jeff Beam Portland, Maine

 

Why See the Same Live Show Again and Again?

The super fantastic Hall & Oates just played a show in Boston over the weekend with the equally awesome band Tears For Fears. Great bill. Because of my past outspoken passion and support for the inclusion of Hall and Oates into the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame; people all year have been asking me if I’m going to the show. Did I get good seats? How excited am I?  

One by one I’d explain that I was taking a pass on this one. Eyes widened and a look of confusion crossed most faces, prompting me to give a reason for my absence. I told them all I’ve been lucky enough to see Hall & Oates three times in the past five years and at all three shows I was in the front ten rows. They were terrific seats and experiences not to be beaten. I actually saw Tears for Fears about six or seven years ago as well at a smaller venue. So essentially, I've gotten my fix. 

Not to mention H&O’s set barely changed each time. Each show was different by one song, maybe two. So I was seeing the same show basically. Seeing them in a big arena wouldn’t haven been as great as those first few experiences. You’ve heard the expression, leave well enough alone. I didn’t want to spoil things. 

But what makes us go back to see bands again and again? There are some acts we will go see religiously no matter the circumstances, venue, or ticket price. We don’t question, we just go. We know what we’re going to get and it’s fully approved. 

People love live music so much around here, and I’m always blown away by a number of people who have seen artists multiple times. I’m guilty too — proud of it! I’ve seen bands like the Melvins, Faith No More, Van Halen, Joan Jett, The Roots, Clutch, Danko Jones, Nine Inch Nails, Monster Magnet, Against Me!, Mr. Bungle, Flaming Lips, Cage the Elephant, Superdrag, Ours, Secret Machines and And Your Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead at least four or five times each. I’ve seen Cheap Trick, Queens of the Stone Age and Fantomas at least eight or nine times each. I remember them well too! I saw QOTSA at Asylum in 1999 with barely 30 people. I saw them with Dave Grohl on drums at the Paradise in Boston. I saw Fantomas’ second, third, fourth and fifth shows ever in NYC. We remember the shows and certain moments of these repeat acts. They always stay with us because we know we might never see it again. 

Sometimes, we tempt fate though. I recently asked some musicians and music folks which artists they've seen the most and why they go back again and again.

Tim Mercer (musician/songwriter)

Jane’s Addiction, five times.

"I’ve seen them more than any other band. They play different tunes in different settings. There is something about the energy exchange between the performer and the audience that can be quite personal.”

Melissa Anne Martin (music fan/collector)

Guster, six times.

“Their audience makes the experience enjoyable along with their music but the energy is way up.”

Tim Aballo (The Outsiders)

Reverend Horton Heat and The Amazing Royal Crowns, 50 times combined.

“Awesome acts. High energy. Why so many times? The feeling of being a part of a specific scene/culture subset would be a good answer. A comfortable familiarity where you know all the words and the next chord change. You're a part of it. Inclusion. Maybe the same reason we listen to the same albums over and over?”

Brzowski (rapper/hard worker)

The Body, 10 times.

“I've seen Rhode Island's sludgiest export ten times spanning as many years. I've caught them performing a set with a full choir, as well as sets performing with other bands doing all new collaborative material. They aren't a go-to band to, slap on the turntable at home very often, but I will always go see their new deafening iteration when they play within striking distance of Portland.”

Josiah Babcock (a wonderful father/Dead Head)

Strangefolk, 150 times. Grateful Dead with Jerry Garcia, 60 times, and Post-Jerry Dead related shows 120 time.

“All play a completely unique setlist from night to night. Huge repertoires of songs, never played the same way twice, in different orders and combinations, many different venues, crowd energies, indoor/outdoor, with different friends, guest artists and so on.”

Holly Nunan (DJ/Frank FM)

Tom Petty, six times.

”Thomas Earl Petty and his band of unbelievably talented musical merrymakers are a gift to rock and roll that we don't even deserve! Mike Campbell is still one of the most underrated guitarists out there. I have no shame in saying that I have regularly drained my savings account to see this band live and will do so as long as they continue to tour.”

Jumpy McGee (Maine Roller Derby)

Goldfinger, 10 times.

”They caught my attention on the radio, but kept my attention with the live shows because of the energy. It was always fun to see if Charlie's spins would eventually take out the drum set.” 

Release It Already: Local Albums Dropping This Summer

Myles BullenWake Up Century (out this week)

Myles BullenAlbum

Cover art by Anna Welch. 

I came up with “Hippie Hop” a while back to describe all that is Myles Bullen. He’s a peaceful lad roaming around with a heart full of love spitting positive and encouraging rhymes to anyone who will stop and listen. I predict more people will listen to his latest record recorded with producer/vocalist, Earth Person. Even with one full length, some previous singles and EP’s under his belt; Bullen seems to really have it together this time for a proper introduction to a bigger audience. The title track and video for it are the gateway, Want more? You couldn’t dodge him if you wanted to. He’s all over this town like a parking meter maid. Between nights at Flask, WMPG, “Rap Night” at Aura, The Telling Room, Congress Street or a backyard open mic party down the street from you; Myles Bullen is out there in the world spreading positivity and can’t be stopped. And that's a good thing for the world.  

     

BeautifulWeirdRetrospect (out now, proper release soon)

BeautifulWeirdalbumcover

Photo By J Roberts. 

This is a band still way under the radar and for obvious reasons; they haven’t fully released their debut EP yet nor have they played in town. I have the debut release though and I have seen them play and they are going to be a super good thing. I was impressed upon a first listen a few months ago. Maybe think of a shy Paramore or a more mainstream Weakened Friends possibly. It’s alternative pop rock fronted by a confident and cool vocalist, Kelly Huston. The band also includes two former members of local metal band, Absence of the Sun. Trading in death growls and ripping shreds for sweet licks with some echo on them and an 80s influenced feel; BeautifulWeird won’t be under the radar for much longer.   

 

An Overnight Low - Waverley (June 30)

AnOvernightLow

Waverley is the third and final release in the British travel trilogy inspired by band member Chad Walls’s time in England while studying in Manchester. The three albums, named after train stations he frequented — Euston, Piccadilly and now Waverley — wrap up the package with more clever songs that will please anyone who loved that amazing college rock we got from the later '80s into the early '90s (REM, The Posies, Blur). Fans of Big Star, The Kinks and the Beatles will find a warm place here as well. Mature, yet carefully playful and cheeky Brit-inspired pop rock is my best way to describe An Overnight Low for those who haven’t visited either train stop yet. Get on board this time around though if you have the taste for their flavor. Next stop, happiness.   

 

Sygnal To Noise - Horns High (July 1

SygnalToNoise HornsHigh

Certainly the most masked band around, Sygnal To Noise returns with their 3rd release in just about five years. Fronted by long-running vocalist Mark Cooper (David’s Playground, Boomslang, Hours Past), Sygnal To Noise release another collection for the rock fans who still save room to put Godsmack, Shinedown, Papa Roach and Stone Sour CDs in their racks. Coop still remains one of local hard rock’s strongest singers. His son Austin, unfortunately, had to give up his seat behind the drums due to personal reasons, but his replacement will do I suppose. Enter the one and only Sonny Robinson of local rock godfathers, Twisted Roots. Not a bad pick up. Coop and Sonny make for a heck of a rock battery.   

 

Jeremiah FreedCompanion Pt. 1 (July 11)

JeremiahFreedCompanion

I doubt anyone saw this coming. Why would you?! These 70s rock influenced cats from York took the local music scene by storm and stormed onto Universal Republic Records in the early 00s. After a brief run due to the typical lack of artist development from record labels, Freed freed up and tried a couple of final moves. Most went to LA for a run at it, but would eventually go their own ways. One to Nashville, some stayed around here playing music some stayed out West. Years passed. People change. Vows exchanged and hopes and dreams are altered. The music never goes away though, does it? That's what’s happened here. The original line up, sans drummer Kerry Ryan, is about to serve up their most mature and rich collection yet. Fifteen years after their major label deal was signed and lost, Jeremiah Freed does it all for the right reasons like back when they started and were unable to buy beer. They’re doing it now because there is great music still in them that needs to be released and given to the world.    

 

Kris Rodgers and the Dirty Gems - Losing the Frequency (July 28)

KrisRodger

Rodgers is back with another blast of piano/pop rock that can’t be confused for anyone else around. Rodgers music is always gutsy and pushy as it is soulful and thoughtful. He also remains one of the strongest singers around in my book. His growth in this scene has not gone overlooked. This album, his third proper release takes a chance or two. Check out the album closer, “Who’s Gonna Save You Now”. It’s an epic, pop-rock gem that makes you realize Rodgers has become much more than just a piano man. 

  

 

Tired Mosh Pits: Should punk bands keep playing 40 years later?

I made it out to Aura last Saturday for one of the coolest lineups I’ve seen in a while: Flat Duo Jets, punk legends Agent Orange, and the always rockin’ headliners, Reverend Horton Heat. What a three-pack!

As I walked in it was clear to see this wasn’t a 21+ crowd. It was more like a 31+ crowd. It was so refreshing to see more folks swearing off Netflix and couches for the night. Cool sexy gals with Social Distortion t-shirts on and hair all done up in bandanas with their jeans rolled up high. A lot of the fellas looking like they came from a hot rod expo. This lineup was sure to bring out the wonderful crossover crowd of punk rock/rockabilly fans. None of the bands disappointed. 

The two-man punch of the Flat Duo Jets slugged away as frontman Dexter Romweber laid out their brand of psychobilly/rockin’ bluegrass to a cheering crowd. It was easy to tell why — since the late '80s — the North Carolina act was a major influence on people like Jack White.        

Orange County punk act Agent Orange (featuring only remaining original member Mike Palm) ripped through a solid hour set of originals and covers that shook the room up a bit. Well, as much as that older crowd could shake. A small, four-man mosh pit formed only to cave in due to the boredom and exhaustion of its participants. Yet there was some slight pogo action by fans going on closer to the stage. When the band blasted into the classic “Bloodstains”, the dust shook off a few more people. 

The Reverend played the same as always, absolutely fantastic. Rock 'n’ roll origins. With the recent passing of Chuck Berry and the current state of dog shit the music industry is in, watching the Reverend was like charging a battery. Time has only made this band better, the music richer, the presentation more striking. Jim Heath prowled the stage with that comic book bad guy grin and managed to lay out some of the most faith-restoring guitar sounds anyone ever heard. They ended paying tribute to Lemmy with a nice story and then diving into Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” I say this with all respect folks, all respect; the Reverend owns that song now. Really. If there was ever a perfect fit and someone to carry on such a tradition, it’s them and this song. It was everything the song is supposed to be: Heath’s screeching vocals, ear-ripping Gretsch's guitar-playing and Jimbo Wallace’s manic stand-up bass-slapping. Lemmy was smirking on the Rev from wherever he’s drinking these days. 

As I watched this whole show from start to finish, I think about these cats and what they’ve been through. I watched Agent Orange who started in 1979 in California and thought to myself, kindly, should a punk rock band be playing almost 40 years later? 

Punk rock is an immediate thing. It’s hasty and impatient. It happens because it has to happen, right then and there. It explodes onto all of us and what's to follow is of no one’s concern. It’s do or die music. Punk bands who played years ago, like Agent Orange, did it to live. Not to be able to make a career, but because it was their only way to exist in this world. Those bands weren’t filled with great musicians. They weren’t looking for the golden ring as they circled around the country time and again in busted-up vans littered with taco wrappers and dirty socks. They didn’t do it for record deals or money. It just had to be done, and they'd be fooling themselves if they didn’t deliver it, usually on their own dime and sleeping on someone else’s living room floor. 

I then saw Agent Orange that night and thought ... why do it now? I’m not complaining. I’m psyched to be able to see them, but why do they need to do this? I can imagine there’s more pressure on them now more than ever. Now they need the money, they need to pay bills, they need to feed others. It’s weird to think, but now these older bands, punk bands specifically, are doing it to make a living. How ironic to see a band decide in their later years to make a go of it. 

Reality set in though when Dexter from Flat Duo Jets mentioned on stage that their check from the previous night’s gig bounced and they had $300 between the two of them. Yet there they were, still playing. It's what you have to do, right? Try to get paid, sell shirts, and put gas in the tank to make it to the next city to do the same thing. They play to get paid to play again. Amazing. Even 30 or 40 years later, some of these acts are still living the right way.  

Mark Curdo is the director of lifestyle & entertainment branding for Shipyard Brewing Company and longtime host of the Spinout radio show now on Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on 94.3 WCYY.

Your ultimate summer music playlist

A few months ago the weather was pretty decent, at least for the end of winter. I remember thinking, I hope that’s it. I hope we’re in the clear now. I’m not normally an anti-winter or snow person. Just last year. Last year I wasn’t feeling the winter one bit. I do love to see my friends having fun hitting the slopes and enjoying mountain area activities. It’s been a bumpy few years for our winter business, so you like to see them have it go their way a little bit each year. Last year, I was not in winter wonderland mode at all.   

As the weather stayed, decent, for most of March and April; I also remember thinking that we’re gonna pay for this. Easy winter must make lame start to the summer. We can’t have it all, right? And so it is. The weather has sucked recently! I’m not expecting 85 degree days every single day, nor do I really want that ever, but I’ve had a friggin’ jacket on most of the last two weeks.  

Well, one thing is for sure, we can’t do nothin’ about the weather. Mother Nature isn’t taking requests. We can, however, build a little fire of inspiration and anticipation for the good stuff that should be happening with more consistency. I asked a few local music friends to shoot me a summer kick off playlist. Ten songs you’d put on a mixtape/playlist to fire up some spirit of summer! Which will be coming soon, I think.

I’ll start off things with this blend. 

Jr. Walker & The All-stars “Shotgun”

Cheap Trick “California Man” 

The Blueskins “Stupid Ones” 

The Clash “Clampdown”

Otis Redding “Satisfaction” 

The Strangeloves “I Want Candy”

Lou Reed “I Love You, Suzanne” 

The Who “Run Run Run”

J. Geils Band “Night Time”

Curtis Mayfield “Move On Up”

The Smiths “Panic” (bonus track)

Kris Rodgers (musician, Kris Rodgers and the Dirty Gems)

The Role Models - “Radio”

The Beach Boys - “Girl From New York City”

Corin Ashley - “Little Crumbles”

The Casanovas - “Born To Run”

Jeremiah Freed - “Don’t Go Hungry”

Holy Boys Danger Club - “City Kid Town”

Biters - “Hang Around”

Bullet Proof Lovers - “I Am My Radio”

The Wildhearts - “I Want To Go Where The People Go”

The Hellacopters - “Before The Fall”

Bri Lane (musician, singer/songwriter) 

Arcade Fire - “Everything Now”

The Shelters - “Rebel Heart”

Roosevelt - “Fever” 

Alt-J - “Left Hand Free”

Aurora - ”Running With the Wolves”

Sigma feat. Birdy - “Find Me”

Lorde - “Green Light”

Pacific Air - “Float”

Coldplay - “Strawberry Swing”

Broken Bells - “The High Road”

Jeff Beam (musician, singer/songwriter) 

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - “Farewell American Primitive”

Mac Demarco - “Freaking Out the Neighborhood”

Jaw Gems - “Graymalkin”

Deerhoof - “Scream Team”

Broadcast - “Pendulum”

Chris Cohen - “As If Apart”

Shuggie Otis - “Strawberry Letter 23”

Grizzly Bear - “Southern Point”

Big Thief - “Masterpiece”

Ruth Garbus - “Certain Kind”

Tom Long (owner, Long’s Board Shop) 

Mariachi El Bronx - “48 Roses”

NERD - “Rock Star”

Warpaint - “Disco//Very”

Operation Ivy - “Soundsystem”

Box Car Racer - “I Feel So”

Beastie Boys - “Flute Loop”

311 - “Stealing Happy Hours”

Walking Concert - “Animals”

Transplants - “California Babylon”

Jane's Addiction - “Summertime Rolls”

 

Nick Lavallee (comedian, musician “Donaher”)

Theo Katzman - "As The Romans Do"

Spose - "King Of Maine"

Big Grams - "Fell In The Sun"

Mighty Mighty Bosstones - "Noise Brigade"

The Menzingers - "Your Wild Years"

The Hold Steady - "Constructive Summer"

A Tribe Called Quest - "Can I Kick It?"

Fountains of Wayne - "Radiation Vibe"

Weezer - "Holiday"

Donaher - “Heather”

Myles Bullen (hip hop artist, teacher, motivator, peace maker)

Earth Person - “Flower Honey Bee”

Ayla Nereo - “It's Okay” 

Erykah Badu - “Honey”

Watsky - “Strong As An Oak”

Anderson Paak - “The Bird”

Kendrick Lamar - “I” (music video version)

Chance The Rapper - “Blessings”

Shane Reis - “Smile”

Robert Glasper - “Thinkin ‘Bout You”

Janelle Monae - “Q.U.E.E.N”

Tim Patrick Emery (musician, genius at Buckdancers Choice)

The Beatles - “Here Comes the Sun”

Eddie Cochran - “Summertime Blues”

The Ramones - “Rockaway Beach”

The Trashment - “Surfin' Bird”

Mungo Jerry - “In the Summertime”

Desmond Decker and the Aces - “The Israelites”

The Beach Boys - “Fun Fun Fun”

Kiss - “Shout it Out Loud”

Edgar Winter Group - “Frankenstein”

The Beach Boys - “Sail On Sailor”

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