Mark Curdo

Mark Curdo

My Record Store Pet Peeves

I don’t want to come off like a snarky music person. I know with some of my music rants, readers might think I’m a bit touchy with music. That’s the point, I guess. These articles come from someone who has something to say about music and all that goes on with it. When I rant, I rant because I care, my friends. 

At the end of the day, do what works for you. I can still speak of the glory and horror I see going on daily in the world of music from a first-hand perspective, and I have for many years. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I speak the truth as I see it. Calling out, talking up; my intentions are good. That I promise you. 

With the cool air settling in, it’s obv many of you are like all totes stoked on getting your fav mocha-loco-iced-grande, putting on your adorbs Han Solo outfits and strolling around Southern Maine digging for treasures and so looking for all the feels. (#2017kidslingo)  

In those journeys, many of you are going to look for some cool records to bring home. Since record shops are going to get busier, let’s visit a few quick things shoppers and store owners need to keep in mind to make it a nice time for all. 

Elbow Room – I know when you walk in a record store it’s cool and you’re blown away at all the racks of vinyl with these rock stars' faces staring back at you. You just want to wander freely and swing your $14 cup of coffee all around. Please remember though you’re not the only one in there. (If you’re not the only one in there). Be cautious of your moves. Let people breathe and search with some space. For collectors who constantly “dig” for records, boundaries are important. 

I visited a shop a couple weeks ago in New Hampshire and got jammed bad. I was knee deep in the “C” rows somewhere between Cheap Trick and Chicago. Out the corner of my eye I saw a questionable guy slowly walking my way. Keep in mind this store is huge. Thousands and thousands of records to check out. CD's, 45's and other collectibles. 

As I flipped through Dream Police into Chicago Transit Authority this guy made his way creepily right next to me. The kicker is he didn’t go to the start of the “A” section four rows over. He jumped right into the “B’s”, which put him elbow to elbow with me. Before you think I’m just being too touchy, how would you feel if you were buying a skirt or a case of beer or a jar of salsa and someone was up against your elbows? Yeah, no fun. Oh, but it got worse. 

After he picked up that I wasn’t moving for him he scattered down to the “E” maybe for some Escape Club and in comes the worst space invader of all time. This woman floated around the store aimlessly for ten minutes with hair as wacky as Robert Smith of the Cure. She beams over to “C” where I’m flipping through and tries to dive into the records I’ve been standing in front of for the past six minutes. Now you might say maybe she wanted something in the “C” row. Nope. She had no direction at all. Even if she wanted Cher or Ry Cooder, you're supposed to wait. In any situation, you wait your turn. We learn that as children. I was so annoyed I had to bolt away. I spun out towards the soundtracks section, half the store away. While I was being jammed, another pet peeve was happening that lasted the better part of 20 minutes! 

Sound On Please – There really should be a fine record stores should have to pay for not playing any music for more than three minutes. I know sometimes employees get to pick what to play next when its their turn and all, but get that action back on quick, people! A quiet record store might as well shut the front door. As I was still dodging these space invaders near the “W’s” now, not a note was played on the house stereo. You can’t let that happen. Silence is a killer in record stores. Always have music on. It also helps drown out foolish questions like, “Do you have the new Papa Roach on vinyl?” Luckily this guy made good by putting on a Tiny Tim record. Bonus points. 

It all seems like common sense right? Not so much. With new people finding the exciting world of buying vinyl in 2017, we need to speak up about unspoken laws to make it a pleasant time for all of us! 

Please don’t cut off people or get too close to their flipping. Spread yourself out at least four letters away. Me at The Pogues means you at least at Talking Heads. Keep music on at all times in the shop. Be proud, play great things! If you’re trying to sell used vinyl, don’t think you’re gonna make tons of money because they’re “old records”. If you check out a record, be careful how you put it back in the sleeve. Don’t brag about your collection. Don’t talk about the Beatles in record stores. Someone is about to walk in who knows so much more about them than you do. 

Most importantly, go to every record store you can, over and over again. Give them your business and have a blast. 

Oh and don’t get me started on people talking on their phones...

Goodbye, Summertime — Time to Fall Back In Love With Local Music

It’s not super well-known, but I’m a very nostalgic, sentimental type of person. So as we approach the "end of summer" this Labor Day weekend I’m already looking back at all the live concerts that dropped on us for 2017. It was a super busy summer. 

A reason for that is a competitive market. Big venues feature big artists fighting for big dollars. The addition of new venues like Aura also busied things up a bit. Portland's reputation as one of the hippest little cities in the country also plays a major factor. 

All summer long the live music buzz seemed focused on the big shows, the national and international acts that shuffled through Vacationland more than ever before. This isn't a bad thing. We want more bands to add Maine to their touring schedule. With newer venues in the past few years and the hope you might bump into Krysten Ritter slamming down bourbon shots at Flask (hey, it could happen), artists and their booking agents seem to be getting more interested in Maine. That attention's good for us! Good for our restaurants, good for our stores, local products, and hotels. But it's not so good for local music. 

These big shows around town are a blessing and a curse. With everyone focused on their Elvis Costello, Primus or O-Town tickets, the music we have right here year ‘round is largely forgotten, buried in a flurry of people with tour buses and out-of-control catering requests.    

I’m not slamming these shows or the venues. Not at all. I’m happy for them! I was at a couple big shows this summer. It's great to see the good folks working at the State Theatre/Thompson Point/Port City Music Hall smile at a packed show. To see the sisters who own Aura so happy with the success of their new venue makes me as giddy as it does them. We want those shows and we want those venues to prosper. We want to see the biggest names in the world perform here. We also want our own artists to become big names too, though. I’m just not sure if everyone who attends the larger shows have balanced their concert diet by sourcing locally as well. 

I remember not too long ago this city was in a weird spot. The then Asylum was hanging in there. Port City hadn’t opened yet and rumors were abound that the State Theatre was being sold to Bill Murray. Bangor Waterfront hadn't opened and about the only steady national acts we saw in Portland performed at SPACE Gallery, Asylum and the all-ages Station at Union Station Plaza. 

We were low on big shows but the smaller local ones were rocking! The time was right. Artists from around here were steadily putting out great stuff and ripping stages up and down Congress Street. The Big Easy was slamming. Empire had just opened doors and caught on quick. The newly relocated Geno’s was doing its thing. People were packing in rooms to see Loverless, Sidecar Radio, Ocean, Covered in Bees, Cambiata, Sparks The Rescue and Pete Kilpatrick, just to name a few. It was great to see our bands create an atmosphere that was electric and approached by so many. Local ruled. 

Then we all thought, damn, why doesn’t anyone major play Portland?! We need a big venue! Five seconds later here comes Port City, State Theatre is bought and reopened and Asylum’s 15th Anniversary kickstarted a new busy movement for them. Everyone was getting busier. Places like Blue, One Longfellow Square, St. Lawrence Arts Center and Mayo Street Arts were drawing nice crowds. Eventually, we saw that massive Mumford & Sons show on the Eastern Prom make a major statement. The Maine State Pier started their work. Thompson’s Point is a major spot now. Asylum got leveled to make Aura and Bayside Bowl invite more local music in with the bowlers. 

Friends, in the past 10 years, this city has burst with live music options. It’s crazy when you think about the changes. I’m afraid though that the trend has turned many cold on local with concert dollars being shoved into Father John Misty and Ratt’s pockets. People’s wallets and free nights are spread thin. 

What could help the cause during a busy summer? Maybe more local opening slots on big shows when they can happen. On-site promoting for after-show live music featuring related artists at venues in town. Big shows wrap early so maybe local acts need to hit social media harder. “Liked Wilco? You might like us too. After Wilco, show this flyer at the door to get in for $3.” Or whatever. Anything helps. Just some ideas.    

As the cool air returns and you’re elbows deep in the closet looking for your favorite scarves, I invite you to return to the places where you get branded with a lazy Sharpie mark on your hand that will stick around for days. A place where top notch music will cost you maybe six bucks. Head out to support our own. Because as much as we like to meet new friends, there's nothing more important than family and home. 

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. 

  

 

Subscribe to this RSS feed