Sunday Fun(k)day with the Mayer of Soul by Daniel G.

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Mayer Hawthorne’s appreciation for the musical stylings of Curtis Mayfield, Sam & Dave, and Motown’s greats was on full display this past Sunday night when he and his backing band The County whipped Fitzgerald’s into a sweaty, funky, soul-fueled frenzy.  Full disclosure: I”m a sucker for music from a bygone era.  The late 60’s and early 70’s Rhythm & Blues songs of love and love lost just do it for me, and I have no qualms about being a 32 year old white boy and feeling that way.  Thankfully, neither does Mayer Hawthorne–If writing love songs is wrong, I don’t want to be right!” he preached .  From the effective simple cabaret style lighting to the matching three piece suits and tight sound of The County, it was a professional display that had the audience of youngs and olds grooving along with each number.   The commitment to the soul revue look wasn’t lost on us, considering the temperature at Fitz’s climbed throughout the show, even drawing a “Damn it’s hot in here!!” from Mayer after the first act of his set finished.
 To call Mr. Hawthorne, born Andrew Mayer Cohen, strictly a retro artist would be shortsighted.  Yes, he’d proud of his Motor City roots and has his historical canon at the ready, but he adds with it edgier lyrics and a style that are more in the now.  His fashion sense even mirrored this musical makeup–pairing a swing band leader’s slim jacket and bow tie with trendy red high tops and iridescent red laces.  The steamed audience saw a set that opened with “You Called Me” and winded through some early work and a lot of newer material from Mayer’s 2011 release “How Do You Do”.   He even threw in two different Hall & Oates covers to my (and the audience’s) delight.  Energetic favorites “The Walk” and “A Long Time” were as well received as slower jams like “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Shiny & New”.  Mayer’s voice in concert definitely lends more maturity to tracks from his 2009 Stones Throw Records debut.  We got a few glimpses of The County’s musical prowess, and throughout the set I kept wanting to see more of them in the spotlight.  Luckily the raucous encore brought the band back sans sport coats to deliver “Maybe So, Maybe No” and the extended jam “Henny & Ginger Ale” as a perfect capstone to the raucous evening.  You can tell that Mayer Hawthorne belongs on the stage, and as he passed out apropos Hennessy cocktails to the audience from the bandstand, it felt like he wanted us right there with him.  Shortly before midnight we all walked out full of perspiration, joy, and a little more soul than when we arrived.
Set List
You Called Me
Make Her Mine
You’re Easy Lovin’ Aint’ Pleasin’ Nothin’
The Walk
Bossa Nova Break – Back from Brasil
One Track Mind
Stick Around feat. Quincy McRary
Vocal Warmup – “Watch Me Get Down”
Love In Motion
No Strings
Shiny & New
I Wish It Would Rain
Dreaming
You Make My Dreams Come True (Hall & Oates cover)
A Long Time
Finally Falling
Green-Eyed Love
A Strange Arrangement
Get Out of My Life Woman (Allen Toussaint cover)
I Cant Go For That (No Can Do) (Hall & Oates cover)
Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out
Hooked
The Ills
Encore
Maybe So, Maybe No
Henny & Ginger Ale

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Photos courtesy of Jen Mok
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Eleanor Friedberger @ Fitzgerald’s 4/26/12 by Howard L.

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Walking in to Fitzgerald’s yesterday night I really had no idea of what to expect from Eleanor Friedberger. Was she gonna be an acoustic troubadour? Or perhaps something a little caustic? What i experienced was not quite what i didn’t expect. Haha. She was a suprisingly good blend of quirky bluesy rock with a strong stage presence. Strong enough to present her songs but not totally overpowering to the point where her band wasn’t noticed. They were jammin!
The first part of her set was pretty upbeat and she had a great group of people backing her up. Saw a couple people dancing in the crowd. I would’ve but i was only 2 beers in at the moment. She also had someone introduce her before her set that was pretty depressing. I don’t know if that was by design or not. Strange nonetheless.

The Fitz was a great place to see her live. Sounds acoustics and all were great. Houston, y’all missed out.

A review of “Fallen Empires” from Snow Patrol by Christopher Lopez

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Everyone remembers the song, “Run,” which made Snow Patrol into the phenomenon they are now. Since that album, “Final Straw,” we now reach them at their current point, “Fallen Empires,” the bands sixth album. There are a few difference in this album especially with collaborations from people such as Troy Van Leeuwne from, “Queens of the Stone Age,” Owen Pallett, and Lissie Maurus on vocals. With this new album they are testing out a new sound that is not traditional Snow Patrol with the use of more machines and a heavier synth based rhythm.
 
This album is not a completely new direction for the band. We have seen other already popular bands try out one or two songs with a new beat or direction while still maintaining their composure and solidarity. Snow Patrol follows this scheme having only, “Called Out In the Dark,” and, “Fallen Empires,” being the heavy beat driven songs of the album.  Though there are more, these are the pulsating dance tracks of the album which show the new light of the band.
 
“Called Out In the Dark,” is the first track in the album where we hear the shift in what used to be the norm for the band. The synth is heavy and plays a great part during the climax of the song. It sounds like it is heavily influenced from older synth based tracks like, “New Order,” but still keeping true to the bands persona. This is also heard in, “Fallen Empires,” which first sound a bit folk and then turns louder and louder subtly maintaining a moderate build.  The synth adds a depth to the song that has not been heard before but still keeps the “Snow Patrol,” sound while being a dance track.
 
There are still the famous ballads that we know the band for such as, “Those Distant Bells.” The way that the vocals are set up is the traditional sounds we have heard, but that does not mean that there is a lack of resonance with the song. This time we hear Lissie Maurus sing along with lead singer Gary Lightbody in unison during this track which is similar to a less powerful rendition of, “Set the Fire to the Third Bar.” We do not have the force that previous duo songs have because the premise of the album is that of being less of a dark and gritty.
 
New band member, Johnny McDaid (Piano) wrote, “New York,” with Gary Lightbody which sounds like a standard Snow Patrol song but reflects what the band does so perfectly. The simple lyrics and intricate mix of the lyrics with the instruments demonstrate that the band does not need to change much to create a masterpiece. The build is strong with accompanying powerful vocals to end the song with a profound depth and emersion.
 
We see a less melancholy based lyrical structure to their songs. We are used to the depressing and agonizing lyrics from songs like, “Run,” and “Chasing Cars,” but now reach a point where the upbeat songs reflect a more optimistic subject matter.  The album is uplifting but still has its dark renditions. This is not a departure but more of a test to other sounds giving hints in which direction they will lean towards in the future. We have a glimpse to what the band will release next when Gary Lightbody told billboard.com, “Broken Bottles from a Star’ is a prelude, as it says on the album. . . it’s gonna be the first song on the next album.”

Bear in Heaven, Blouse, and Doldrums at Fitzgerald’s. By Matthew Mendez

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Three interesting bands on the bill at Fitzgerald’s on Wednesday night. Not the most well-known acts but all three were very talented and very different. First up was Montreal-based producer Doldrums. From the outside this scraggily young man – donned in a ripped, over-sized tank top and enough wristbands consuming his right arm to make a seasoned veteran of SXSW blush – looked more punk rock than electronic mastermind. Playing solo before an array of synthesizers and drum machines, he helped invigorate a listless crowd with his do-it-yourself style of music. His set was a palette of tribal beats, synth pop, nearly inaudible vocals, and distorted samples. It all came together, though, on his final song, “Egypt.” The strange yet well-paced song threw together so many samples and went in so many sonic directions and lasted so long, nearly eight minutes, that it was reminiscent of a jam band that did not want to stop playing. Although not all his music was accessible and easy to listen to, it’s nevertheless very enjoyable to see what he could do with sound.

Blouse provided a pretty stark contrast to Doldrums’ non-linear style. The Portland band has that melancholic synth-pop nailed down. Soundtracks from John Hughes movies come to mind when listening to Blouse. Lead vocalist Charlie Hilton’s (don’t be fooled by the name, Charlie is a girl) voice blends perfectly with her band’s lo-fi esthetic. Her voice never overpowers the band and the two forces blend so evenly that it’s hard to tell whether melody or instrumentals leads. Blouse played a solid and speedy set – under 30 minutes. Their set brought the entire crowd to the front of the stage. Who knows how much of that was due to genuine fandom and how much was on behalf of lead singer Charlie’s good looks and charm. Who doesn’t love a good female vocalist in a mostly male band?

The opening acts had concluded. Lines at the bar were growing longer. The patio welcomed smokers who were in need of their nicotine fix prior to Bear in Heaven taking the stage. The anticipation was palpable. They might not be one of the most well-known bands but they certainly do have loyal fans who love their stuff.

Bear in Heaven finally took the stage around 11:30pm. They kicked things off with high energy by opening with “You do you”, off their critically acclaimed 2010 album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth. Lead singer Jon Philpot passionately bolted out his songs at full volume while also taking turns on the guitar and keyboards throughout the performance. The band’s sound is very big. Tons of drum and bass accompany the songs in their repertoire. Shouting the lyrics was almost a necessity for Philpot to be heard over the thunderous clamoring of the drums and bass guitar. The extra reverb added to the microphone made for an almost inaudible experience. Were it not for the enthusiastic fans singing along, banging their heads, and dancing throughout, I would have been drowned out in sound without realizing I was at a concert.

In terms of style, this Brooklyn-based band cannot be painted with a single brush. Equal parts rock, dance, and experimental come together seamlessly for these guys. If one of their anthems from a previous album was not to your liking, the next song was certain to stimulate some other area of your taste. Usually when a band announces mid performance that they are going to “play something from our new album”, you take that as your cue to head to the bathroom or back to the bar. Not the case here. When they switched gears and played “Sinful Nature” from their new album, I Love You, It’s Cool the sound took a decidedly electronic turn. The crowd seemed to really enjoy the new stuff as much as the older slate of songs.

It was a terrific performance. Fitzgerald’s was not terribly busy that night but that perhaps added to the experience. The people who wanted to be there were there. People who have good taste and a good ear for music were there. The place was not dominated by the glow of smartphones, people taking lots of pictures (except for me), or drunken antics. It was fun music in an intimate setting on a cool spring night. What more could you ask for? 

 

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Brew Pub Beer Brunch a sunny success at City Acre Brewing By Daniel Glover

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The gorgeous weather was only outshined by the delicious craft beer and food on display at City Acre Brewing this past Saturday. Called the “April Ale Thrill”, the sold out preview event showed what Houston’s weekend brunchers have to look forward to when City Acre opens its brew pub doors this fall. The fete paired four adventurous beers and a ginger beer with house-ground sausage, scones, biscuits, and a malted-cream frosting cinnamon roll that stole the culinary show. In the libation department, the Fermette de Saison was the crowd favorite with extremely honorable mention going to Gulden Squawk-a Belgian Golden Strong ale, and the spicy Queen MAB ginger beer.

An oasis taking up an entire city block on the near North side, City Acre Brewing is not leaving any space to waste. They grow as much of their own food as possible, including the dewberries and loquats used to make the butters and jams that were right at home atop the baked tasties. And while Twitter and Facebook were rife with CAB positively about the food, drink, and space, improvements to the building and vast biergarten are getting underway. Owner/Brewer Matt Schlabach hopes to have one more event in the summer before hunkering down to put finishing touches on City Acre. And when that day in October arrives, Houston’s craft beer and food lovers will rejoice.

For more information follow @cityacrebrewing on Twitter or visit cityacrebrewing.com

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Patrons take in brews, food, and rays at City Acre Brewing’s “April Ale Thril”

Photo courtesy of Gary Borders

City Acre Brewing’s Owner/Brewer Matt Schlabach will open his brewpub doors this October

Photo courtesy of Jen Mok

DevilDriver @ House of Blues 4.21.12 // By Joseph Acosta

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The Metal Alliance tour with headliners DevilDriver, made its final stop last night at the House of Blues downtown. If you missed DevilDriver tonight, don’t expect to get to see them until 2013. I unfortunately couldn’t make it for the whole show (I went to see Evanescence at buzzfest first), but probably saved my ears since most of the bands line up I don’t think are very good anyway. (except for 3 inches of blood, awesome). Most of the crowd was gone by the time I arrived for DevilDriver since many of the younger fans show up for the deathcore bands, which I think will die out soon enough..but I get why they like them. I hate the fact that DevilDriver has toured with deathcore bands, but it makes sense to try and get a new crowd of fans. But sadly most of these kids walk out before they even get a chance to check out DevilDriver… No different than the past few times they’ve been here, DevilDriver opened their set and the pit with End of the Line. It’s the perfect build up when the lights go out and the intro tape playing to pump up the crowd. Their set was mixed with about 2-3 songs from each of their five albums. There was a constant pit and the energy was flowing. Dez kept the crowd into, telling everyone to keep the pit moving and to sing louder. Guitarists Mike and Jeff never let up with their headbanging either, setting the standard for everyone there. The only problem in my opinion tonight, which I see at many shows, is that some people don’t realize they are at a heavy metal show. If you are at the front, it’s common knowledge you will get pushed around a little bit, but it’s part of the show. Some people take offense when they get moved.. As Dez said tonight, their shows are a “full contact sport.” and he expects to see the crowd moving. Also, don’t wear heels either. You’re at a concert, not clubbing. DevilDriver went through 13 songs in just an hour and closed with of course, Meet the Wretched. It was nice to see Dez actually make sure the whole floor opened up as much as possible before starting the song. It waas a great way to end their set and their US tour this year. If you missed them this time around, you missed a great

show. Their groove metal sound is something that every fan of metal and even hard rock should check out at least once. They are truly a touring machine and treat their job with such passion. Be on the look out in 2013 and don’t miss em

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Sleigh Bells @Warehouse Live – April 18 2012

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The beer was flowing like wine last night at Warehouse Live for the return of raging indie rockers Sleigh Bells. We could literally feel the electricity in the air as we watched the venue doors rattle and hum as we walked up. I noticed a lot girls with earplugs too. I knew Sleigh Bells was loud, but I didn’t really think they were that amplified. I was only assuming I wouldn’t be able to hear or talk to anyone for the next four hours, but that quickly became a reality. I then decided that I’d need something to share this evening with, it was at that moment I made the conscious decision to drink. We walked through the doors, and with Lone Stars in hand, braved the crowd of restless Sleigh Bells fans.

We were greeted to the likes of Elite Gymnastics first. They were an odd pair to say the least. The two band members played in the dark, while a large video screen guided the crowd through odd and unpleasant lyrics. One guy spoke every word as he starred oddly into the crowd, while the other guy jumped around beating a trash can lid. These guys thought they were the real-life Doug’s Garage Band. It was as if the crowd was being forced to sit through the worst karaoke session ever minus the old Chinese guy. The set gradually improved, and the last couple songs, or synth melodies as I would call them, could easily have been mistaken for b-sides of 808s & Heartbreak. It was obvious Kanye had nothing to do with these tracks though, and no one appeared too impressed.

Thankfully, next up was Javelin, another Brooklyn twosome. After watching the train-wreck prior I figured we’d just chill until Bells, but because of the quick crowd reaction I immediately rejoined the circus. Javelin was on a whole other level. I mean, these dudes came to throw down. Their beats were up-tempo and they just appeared to be having fun. People were dancing and singing along to the ballsy covers these guys were dishing out. First, they killed Beastie Boy’s “Sabotage”, and then they straight of slayed Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” with ease. This guy had a kazoo. A kazoo. He was rapping to a kazoo. Color me impressed, because I’ve never seen that. Javelin defiantly resparked the dying crowd, as they were the perfect appetizer for what was to come next.

The time had come. Sleigh Bells was up next, my beer had arrived and everyone was ready. Alexis Krauss jumped out from backstage and that quick, the show had started. The duo was now a trio for touring purposing, but no one seemed to notice. All eyes were on Krauss. She was wearing the craziest bedazzled shorts I had ever seen. It was like one of those weird infomercials we saw as kids. One guy leaned over to me and said “that’s a bad bitch right there” as he nodded blissfully. Apparently, that was the general consensus.

The set was filled with a balance of their newest record, Reign of Terror, as well as their master-piece of a freshman release, Treats. Krauss’ everlasting energy made the performance that much more of a spectacle. She jumped into the audience and hung on the rails as fans gladly held her up. She even went as far as finishing one song as she bodysurfed from one side of the crowd to another. What I witnessed could only be described as raw adrenaline. The only letdown of the night was annoying uppity pricks who had “seen them four or five times” and claimed that “they were louder last year”. You know what? I don’t care. I couldn’t make it out last year.

With only two albums under their sparkly belts Sleigh Bells aren’t to be taken lightly. Warehouse Live is a pretty big venue, and Krauss seemed to have the entire place in some sort of electronic trance from beginning to finish. For one reason or another I had never gotten a chance to see the heavy hipster duo, and prior to yesterday I actually hadn’t heard much of the new record. The couple songs they played on Saturday Night Live was the only new stuff I knew, but after seeing Sleigh Bells once… I’ll be sure to not miss them again.The couple songs they played on Saturday Night Live was the only new stuff I knew, but after seeing Sleigh Bells once.. I’ll be sure to not miss them again.

– Jessie Hobson