Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Appleseed Cast Drops in at The Space

The Space in Hamden is really trying to make a name for itself by booking a band like the Appleseed Cast to fill it’s quant interior on what would normally be a boring Friday night in mid-April.

While the Appleseed Cast isn’t the first big name in the indie-rock realm to make a stop in the Hamden, Conn. hole in the wall, hell this isn’t even their first show here (they played nearly two years ago with New Jersey-based Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start to a packed house), but they remain to be a favorite of local booking mastermind “Manic” Mark Nussbaum.

Every time Appleseed Cast makes their return to Connecticut, they always remind listeners how heavy and intricate a guitar-forward post-rock band can sounds, especially after listening to their usual batch of opening acts that then to be stereotypical indie-rock acts that bring little more than long hair and skinny jeans to the stage (Sorry, An Horse and Moving Mountains, prove me wrong if you can).

Coming off an amazing well accepted album in Sagarmatha, the Appleseed Cast now have to prove their worth live, which shouldn’t be too difficult because the majority of their new tracks are heavy on the instrumentals and light on the lyrics.

"At first, we were just planning on doing an instrumental EP," says guitarist Chris Crisci. "I don't know why we wanted to do that, but that was in our head. Then, as we were working on it, we realized that it should be a full-length album. We still wanted to keep it pretty much instrumental, but there were some parts where it felt like it could benefit from some vocal lines and lyrics, so it developed that way.”

This new equation for Appleseed Cast’s music works well for the ever-changing lineup that has seen the band go through nearly a dozen members in the 10 years of existence. Right now the band is Chris Crisci and Aaron Pillar and the group that walks up on stage on April 17th in Hamden is yet to be determined. At it’s best, the band has 4 members on stage and that group created the most intense 45 minutes of music and welded so well it felt like hours when listening to it.

Aaron Pillar explains the band’s situation by saying, “Mark [Young] decided to go back to school. And he was getting older, and saw maybe what, you know—something we had talked about for years was, “I want to know where I’m at, I want to have a degree, I want to have something that I could have,” and I think he saw that the direction me and Chris were feeling about writing and then my music, it was going to be another couple years of being in the same boat. We talked for a long time, and it was just like—I’ve dabbled with the decision. It’s a hard decision to make.”

Sagarmatha recreates that oh so familiar sense when being played from front to back as loud as your speakers can handle, the only acceptable way to listen to the Appleseed Cast. This band needs to be played loud and to be honest, playing their tunes are medium volume serves them no justice at all.

Written words can only describe the Appleseed Cast to a certain extent before you just have to listen to them for yourself. 12 bucks is a fare price to pay to haved your thought of “emo” music changed forever and possibly your outlook on music in general. Oh, and don’t forget your earplugs, this is will prove to be your loudest concert ever.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Adventureland: Cheezy Without Tons of Cheap Laughs

A cheap laugh was the only expectation set prior to Friday night’s opening of Adventureland, the latest film written and directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Arrested Development).

Based on the 85 second long trailer released in the months leading up to the official debut of the film, the average deduction was that the movie will be a feel-good story that has a twist in the plot and end up working out for everyone in the end. While some of these aspects remain true, the road Adventureland takes to get there is full of blind turns and sudden stops.

James Brennan, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale) is a scrawny Pittsburgh native, fresh out of a private college with a literature degree, full of Ivy League aspirations and plans of a European trip to expand his knowledge and probably “find himself”. Oh, and lose his virginity, that’s key.

Not long into the movie, the crowd learns that Brennan’s father, played by Jack Gilpin, has been demoted at work (possibly due to his love of scotch) and the family is unable to foot the bill for his trip across the Atlantic. This leaves James in a tough spot.

With no graduation trip and Columbia grad school only a few months off, James is forced to find a job that can be performed by someone with absolutely no real-life work experience and he finds it at Adventureland, Pittsburgh’s local amusement park that looks and feels a lot like the 80s version of Lake Compounce or Riverside.

This local dump houses rickety roller coasters, shoddy rides and corn dogs. For one reason or another, the corn dog reappears throughout the movie in different scenes and is referenced over a dozen times. Maybe they were a bigger staple in the American diet in 1987?

Not long after beginning his stint at Adventureland, Brennan discovers he’s not the only well-read well-educated carnie working for next to nothing in the games sections.

James first meets Joel, a long, greasy haired, pipe smoking intellectual that finds himself stuck at Adventureland for no apparent reason, or one that’s not given throughout the film. Joel shows Brennan the ropes of getting by at the park and sums up the entire experience in a single line, “We are doing the work of pathetic lazy morons.”

Shortly after getting comfortable at his role in the horse race booth, James finds his love interest, the ultra-damaged, but interestingly attractive Em, played by Kristen Stewart fresh off her role on Twilight. Em is an NYU student that fully understands Brennan’s nerdy tendencies, over-thought words and awkward flirting.

If the movie was actually filmed in 1987, this would be John Cusack’s perfect girl. Book smarts and a killer record collection that directly correlates with the 80s indie heavy soundtrack makes Em standout as every nerd’s dream girl.

Problem with Em is her attraction to park maintenance man and general sleezeball Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds). Reynolds finds his new prey every season at the park and impresses his much younger and super naive girls with fake stories of playing with Lou Reed.

In reality, Connell is married to an aging disco owner and takes girls to his mother’s basement to have sex. The character is scummy to say the least, but for one reason or another, he continues to help Brennan at the park like an older brother.

Throughout the movie, Brennan’s past shines through with the character of Tommy Frigo, the friend everyone had in high school that never grew up and you ignored once you started college.
Frigo is pure gross out humor and ball punching. Even from his introduction in the movie, his sole role is to punch James Brennan in the balls. Cheap laugh success, but it gets played out after the third or forth time. He is the reason no one ever wants to go back to their hometown after college, cause he will always be there.

While most people expected Adventureland to be Superbad 2, Mottola created a coming of age flick that might be looked at in the future as this generation’s High Fidelity. A seemingly low budget film that contains a great story with tons of indie credibility is exactly what the public needs to combat the terribleness that is Fast and the Furious.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Talking With: Margot and the Nuclear So and So's

After releasing a pair of records this past fall, Indianapolis-based Indie folk band Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s began popping up on music publications’ Best of 2008 list as well as many peoples’ personal radar. With a very familiar sound and hipster credibility, Richard Edwards and the rest of Margot became a hit amongst the indie scene and are being compared to it’s biggest acts (if they like it or not.)

In the next week, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s will travel through New England, making two local stops at Pearl St. in Northampton, Mass and Toad’s Place in New Haven, Conn. in the same week. While the band won’t have to contend with the summer heat, they will still have to navigate their tour[school]bus through the area and make all their stops.

Edward Gaug - A good place to start would be the two albums that were released back in October. One, Animal which is essentially the group of songs that you guys wanted to put out as a band and the other one being Not Animal, which is the grouping of songs that Epic Records really wanted to put out. What is some of the background on this decision?

Richard Edwards - Um, I think they just sort of went crazy on certain songs and certain track listings and stuff like that. They just went on some strange fucking ride that didn’t really work out for either side.

Since you were able to put out Animal via online download and vinyl, have you seen that this album is the one that your fans are choosing over Not Animal?

No, not really. It’s been pretty split. It’s hard to tell. It’s very split and that’s really as much as I know about it.

Has this affected the way that you look at putting out an album through a label now?

No, I mean, I wont do that again probably. I won’t be as wild in picking the things I want to have on our record. I don’t believe in tailoring anything you’re doing to sell copies or to appeal to certain groups of people. Maybe if they hadn’t put this thing together on their own, maybe it has some weaknesses that it wouldn’t if you had a corporate entity involved. I think those weaknesses are a virtue. I think we’ll keeping making exactly what we want to make.

Your fans will appreciate getting the music that you as a band wanted to put out for them.

Hopefully, I mean I think you’ll get shit from people either way, but that’s OK.

You’re never going to get five stars across the board, but the goal of an album, at least for the band, would be to put out the music they are confident in and enjoy. Right?

You want to put of music that you think is representing you at your best at this time and what you think is your best work.

You are known for playing guitar and singing in Margot [and the Nuclear So and So’s], but from everything I’ve read about the band, you are the “leader.” What are you bringing to the table when it comes to recording an album and writing the music?

I write the songs, but the orchestration and all of that is pretty much a group effort within the band. That’s all been done as a group. Arranging the instruments and the basic song. It varies from song to song though, there are songs where I had a ton to do with it instrumentally and there are other songs where I’m very much not the dominant person.

The band functions almost like a very large family, there are eight of you. With everyone coming from outside bands before forming Margot, do you think it makes the music more layered and having more influence?

Yeah, I think it has to do with everyone who is in this band. We are a lot of people who are interested in composition and I think that we are interested in more things that are different than just banging out some chords, but really the concept of composition and how you can create moods with different instruments. We’re getting a little bit away from that right now, but I think that’s just based on the personalities of this particular band.

I know you yourself have a small film background, is there any way you could ever incorporate the style used for writing a screenplay into your song writing to create a “concept” album that tells a story similarly?

I tried to do that with Animal for a story about the Heavens Gate cult in a weird way and a community set up in a mineshaft and some of that made it through, but the idea of that is kind of out –of-fashion and would be an easy target to pick on right now. That’s not a reason not to do it, but I also have an attention span that doesn’t lend itself to a project like that. I’ll get halfway through a project like that and start getting excited about writing about something that’s not really going on in the story. I think my next “breakthrough” album should be a concept opera; it would be really fun to do.

As a side question, if you could write the soundtrack to any movie: past, present or future, what would you want it to be?

I think if Margot could write a soundtrack, it would be for Where the Wild Things Are. I think for maybe the off-Disney cartoons would have worked. Music for dark fairytales maybe.

Back to the present, you have a tour starting up with the band Cloud Cult. How do you guys as a band get prepared to go back on the road after not touring for a while and being more in the studio?

Well, we haven’t really been touring or recording seriously in a while so it’s sort of different. It’s really getting back in the saddle, even if you have been practicing for it. We have been touring for such a long time that it will come back quickly.

The question that always comes up in your interviews is about the way you travel [a school bus] and the fact that you never seem to have air conditioning. Fortunately, you will be touring the northern half of the country and Canada in the beginning of spring, so you won’t really have to worry about it.

It’s a hard vehicle to travel in for that reason. It does get really, really hot. There are not many way to cool yourself down. Even with the windows down. This tour we should be ok, but when it’s July and August is when it starts compounding on the heat. You have 17 layers of heat, but that shouldn’t be an issue.

Do you guys have plans for another tour this summer or playing any of the festivals?

I don’t think there is much of a plan. I think we’ll do a little tour or two in the summer. I doubt we’ll do any of the festivals unless we’re asked cause we don’t have a record coming out or anything like that. We’ll probably pick up recording again; we’re trying to record right now actually. Maybe a new record or something like that soon.

Did Family Guy Do Something Progressive?

So I didn't pay much attention to Family Guy when I watched it this past Sunday night because well...I don't particularly care about an episode dealing mostly with Meg.

After watching it again this morning because I like to give things a second chance, I had a weird thought. Is this the first time a television show openly backed atheism? As far as I can remember, there have been shows that had atheist characters, but never an episode that unabashedly stood behind and promoted atheism.

Will anyone change their minds on religion after watching an episode of Family Guy? I would hope not, but the fact that someone (Seth MacFarlane) is ready to bring the usually taboo topic to an incredible popular TV show, is a good step in the right direction.

Here is the whole episode for you. Thanks Hulu.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Growing Up With: Thursday

When I saw that the band Thursday was back out on the road and playing a show at the Webster Theater in Hartford, I knew I had to get in touch with them. Everyone has a bond with a band that will never separate throughout the years. Thursday is my band. They were the first band I ever photographed live, which led to my interest in photojournalism. Their pure emotion and energy on stage gave the perfect sense for what anyone could look for in a live performance and they did it so effortlessly. Six years later, Thursday continues to release records and is finally back on the road after a short hiatus.

For Tucker Rule, Thursday’s drummer, playing music is all about having fun and doing it with your friends.

Edward Gaug: Let’s start off with the album because that’s the biggest thing right now. You just released Common Existence and are beginning to tour with it. How has this experience been compared to your past albums?

Tucker Rule: It’s been cool man, there’s not a whole lot of pressure on us right now. We wrote a record we really love and we really believe in, so it’s just more fun. We’re back on the road for the first time in a little while, so it’s nice to be back out here and supporting this record.

EG: It comes through when you listen to the album that this is definitely something that you guys did for you. Not to make it sound selfish, but this is an album that you wanted to make rather than the record label wanting you to make.

TR: Absolutely. Thankfully with our label, they didn’t put any pressure on us. They were just like, “We love you guys and whatever you are going to do is going to be cool.”

EG: I got word from a friend of mine who got to see you in San Jose, Calif. this past weekend and he said that you guys haven’t missed a step, even though you haven’t toured in a couple years. Touring now, do you see a difference from when you put out Waiting or Full Collapse in your twenties and where you are now in your thirties?

TR: Yeah definitely. It’s a lot different because everyone is getting older with us. We’re still seeing the same faces; everybody’s just a little older now. You definitely have to take care of yourself a little more on the road when you’re older. Those wounds don’t heal as quickly and bones are getting a little tired.

EG: You must be having a lot of fun, because in an age where bands go through changes and you guys have been the same group of friends since 1999. There’s not a whole lot of movement in Thursday.

TR: No, there’s no movement, no turmoil. We’re all on the same page and when you’re in a band for over 10 years, you have to be on the same page to stay that long and I feel like I’m with a bunch of dudes that understand me and we understand each other. It’s not about fads or fashion phases with us. It’s all about writing music and having a fun time.

EG: One thought that came to mind when listening to the new album was that if you had released this album 10 years ago, do you think you could have put out an album like this and do you think people would have listened to it?

TR: That’s a hard question. I don’t think we would have been able to put out an album like this, as far as our technical prowess at actually playing. This stuff is a little more intricate - it’s faster, so I don’t think that these songs would have translated back then either. I think having that whole movement start, it had to come from a more raw place. This album is a little more technically advanced for us. I think that comes with time and age.

EG: You definitely see that progression from where you started with Waiting to where you are now. You start off the new album really strong and then you hit all the levels that you would want to hear in a Thursday album. You definitely hit everything that people look for. It has to be tough to put out albums and have people always look back to Full Collapse and have that as your judging point considering that was your second album.

TR: It is tough and I noticed a lot on this tour that people are coming up and saying, “I can’t wait to hear you guys play, it will be like going back to my childhood.” It brings back a lot of good memories and that’s really cool. I feel like Thursday, especially around the Full Collapse era, had a time and a place. It had sort of an impact on the people who listened to our band. It’s kind of rad.

EG: The same people who were getting through high school with Full Collapse are now graduating college and starting careers with Common Existence. Your fans are getting to that age now. I think the music is really evolving with your fans, as well as yourselves.

TR: That’s what the hope was. This record is everything we ever did, in one record. It has the experimental shit from A City by the Light Divided, it has the energy of Waiting and Full Collapse and it also has the melodies from War All the Time. I think we smashed it all into one record and I think people who liked our band way back when, they’re still hear the nuances in our record and remember that. The experimental shit might seem toned down. They’ll see it’s a mix of everything.

EG: As the band progresses and members are having kids, does this affect the way you guys are writing music and the way you’re going about the band?

TR: For sure man, we have a dude in our band that has two kids now and it’s hard. Touring gets a lot harder because there are some tours that he might not be able to go on in the future because obviously he wants to spend time with his kids and help his wife, so it is difficult, but it’s the best thing for him and the best thing for the band. It gives us a human perspective on how to not kill ourselves on the road. We have the capacity to do eight or nine months out of the year, but when you take a step back and think we’re all getting older and have people at home that care about us.

For the rest of my interview with Thursday, check out The Recorder.

Bonus Material: My buddy Gitamba over at The Retrospective did a great audio/photo mashup.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Food Review: Tao's Asian Bistro

Finding Asian cuisine in central Connecticut is like shooting fish in a barrel. With such an overabundance of Chinese and Japanese food locally, it becomes more and more difficult to be impressed by a restaurant that serves it exclusively. Tao Asian Bistro managed to fight through the slew of terrible take-out and proves to be one of the state’s top-notch Asian-fusion spots.

As you arrive at The Exchange in Farmington, you are confronted with a group of entrances that display the plaza’s bars and restaurants. Once you reach Tao’s main entrance, you are greeted with a set of stairs that lead to a sprawling dining room with walls painted in bright colors that bring to mind Chuck E Cheese more than it does as moderately priced restaurant.

As you descend the stairs, you have a couple different options in front of you. A choice between a traditional booth, table with four chairs, hibachi grill table or private seating areas for four that are blocked off from the rest of the dining room with bamboo shutters.

The decision was easy; the private dining is a great way to catch up with your fellow diners as you wait for waitress to bring over glasses of water and menus. Though the restaurant wasn’t incredibly busy on a cold Thursday night, the waitstaff was warm and friendly, checking in every few minutes to see if anything was needed.

Once menus are distributed, patrons are presented with an expansive selection that focuses on traditional Chinese fare alongside a sushi-heavy Japanese collection that give enough choices, even for the pickiest of diners.
As with most Asian-fusions, miso soup and salad start all entrees, giving the chef enough time to prepare the meal. In the case of Tao’s, the miso soup relied heavily on tofu cubes that overpower the normally balanced taste of miso soup. The salad was very bland with little dressing to mask the flavor of the wilted greens that were a day past ripe. The openers weren’t great, but this shouldn’t take away from the actual meal though.

The meal, once it arrives, is abundant and filling. The General Tso’s chicken was covered in a thick, spicy pepper sauce that blends well with the assorted veggies plated with it. The chicken, usually prepared as a dark meat dish, was prepared as exclusively with white meat. This variance made for a much more enjoyable. The mixed veggies, which included sliced carrots, broccoli and mushrooms absorbed most of the chicken’s heat, making the dish more palatable and not overwhelming. Only the mushrooms were disappointing, solely due to their softness that gave off a bad taste in the mouth. The size of the dishes also applied to the vegetable tempura and sushi platters. Leaving this restaurant feeling hungry just is not possible.

While Chinese food maintains to be a staple of our 24-7 lifestyles, sacrificing quality isn’t a prerequisite. Fine dining, large portions and multitudes of flavor are just a short drive down I-84 at Tao’s Asian Bistro in Farmington.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Introduction

Why am I writing a blog about the Arts and Entertainment scene in the state of Connecticut? Simple, it's for a class I'm taking. OK well there is more to it than that. i have been covering things in the local music and entertainment scene as a college journalist for the past 3 years and I tend to like what i do. Over the next few months (possibly longer if this things gets some readers) I will be reviewing and critiquing all the things CT has to offer. I will be checking out restaurants, bars, venues, concerts, art exhibits and any other things that would pop on a A&E blog. I will also live blog via my Twitter from events.

Hope someone find this useful or entertaining.