Friday, September 29, 2006

Five for Fighting - Earnest Piano Man

The misleadingly named Five for Fighting is set to hit the road this fall, fresh on the heels
of the release of their studio album ‘Two Lights’.  Their wistful, piano-driven pop-songs
hark an image of working-class Americans quietly pondering the state and future of their

The Band
Much like Chris Carraba is Dashboard Confessional, John Ondrasik is Five for Fighting.
He is chief singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and band member. A native-Californian,
Ondrasik studied music with his piano-teacher mother and took opera vocal lessons as a
youngster.  In melding these experiences, he sprung forth with soft and lilting melodious
tunes marked by his unmistakable falsetto.

The Songs
Most of Five for Fighting’s songs deal with that of the human condition: life, love, family
and despair. It was out of the despair of a nation, in the wake of 9/11, that Ondrasik burst
onto the public consciousness when he performed his twinkling piano ballad ‘Superman
(It’s Not That Easy)’ at the Concert for New York City. As he has become a more
outspoken opponent of the war with Iraq, Ondrasik has woven political themes into his
songs, most noticeably on the latest release ‘Two Lights.'

Five Minute Major
The name of the band is not a declaration of gang warfare but rather an indication of
Ondrasik’s love for hockey. When you get penalized for fighting in hockey you must go sit
in a box for five minutes, hurting your team’s chances in the process, thus: Five for

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Paul Stanley - Starchild Goes Solo

A full 28 years have elapsed since his last solo album, but Paul Stanley hasn’t exactly
been resting on his laurels. Stanley has been plenty busy as frontman of hard schlock
rockers Kiss from the full-on hard rocking makeup era of theatrics in the 70’s to the
stripped down makeup-free days of the 80’s.  Still going strong at age 54, Stanley is set to
hit the road in support of his second solo effort ‘Live To Win’.

The Man
Born and raised in New York City, Stanley hooked up with fellow New Yorker and
music fan Gene Simmons in the early 70’s.  Stanley and Simmons shared songwriting
duties and were largely responsible for the band’s look and sound. It wasn’t long after
that their grease-painted faces and arena shaking anthems were resonating with the youth
of America and around the world.  The boys from Kiss won’t be joining him on this road
trip however, the house band that appeared on the reality show Rock Star: Supernova will
serve as Stanley’s backing band on the tour.

The Songs
As Stanley either wrote or co-wrote many of biggest hits in the KISS catalog, expect a
heavy dose of ‘Detroit Rock City’ ‘I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night’ and ‘Beth’ on the
set list.  The new material could be described as Kiss-lite.  You still hear those distinctive
Stanley vocals, but he isn’t shouting it out loud anymore.  Granted the man is entering
middle-age so the angst and tales of partying every day should’ve subsided by now

Still Hip
A relentless touring schedule and constantly running from groupies can apparently take
quite a toll on the body. After two unsuccessful hip replacement surgeries, Stanley is set
to undergo a third after the fall tour.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

OK GO - Video Helped the Radio Stars

While their radio-friendly power pop bent on resurrecting the likes of Cheap Trick, The Pixies and The Cars don’t necessarily set them apart from their similarly influenced peers, these Chicago rockers have the market cornered on DIY quirky videos. The success of the creative clips for ‘A Million Ways’ and ‘Here We Go Again’ (the treadmill dance) have become bonafide viral sensations on the web. With their reputation as a dynamite live act and the blogosphere tracking their every move, Ok Go’s upcoming tour is fast becoming the must-see show of the fall season.

‘Oh’ Yes
Despite the modest success of modern rock radio hit ‘Get Over It’ and major label marketing dollars behind it, Ok Go’s 2002 self-titled debut release failed to generate much buzz. Their sophomore effort ‘Oh No’, is chock-full of the same infectious pop hooks and sing-along choruses as the first. Suspecting a lack of label support for the new record, the band took it upon themselves to market their product, taking to the streets and more importantly to the web to get the word out. Their low-budget videos spread like the plague on sites like myspace  and youtube, giving the band international exposure.

Turning buzz into bucks
With the power of the internet behind them, the band was invited to perform ‘Here We Go Again’ with treadmills in tow on The MTV Video Music Awards on August 31st. Since that performance, digital downloads and album sales have increased five-fold.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Congress of Corruption Tour - Industrial Metal Smorgasbord

On the eve of midterm elections in this great country of ours, a different kind of Congress
is set to convene: a Congress of Corruption.  Engineered by Cement Shoes Records label
head Dan Catallo, the tour promises to put the sizzle and the spectacle back in the rock
show. With ticket prices set at $10 for the duration of the six-week cross-country tour,
metalheads will be getting plenty of headbanging for their buck.

The Bands
Labelmates on the Cement Shoes Records imprint, Godhead, Il Nino, and Ra comprise
the lineup for the Congress of Corruption tour.  The Washington D.C. based industrial
goth outfit Godhead burst onto the scene in 2000 when Marilyn Manson caught their live
act and was the first band to be signed to his Posthuman label. East Rutherford, New
Jersey natives Ra, come with a somewhat different outlook. They still bring a bleak
industrial metal approach, albeit sprinkled with a more melodic sound, reminiscent of nu-
metallers Staind.  Hardest of the bunch may be Il Nino, also from New Jersey.  Billed as
'heavy and melodic as possible with a Latin twist’, this group of headbangers combine
the speed and fury of thrash with the thunderous crunch of death metal.  Supporting on
the tour are newcomers The Dreaming featuring Chris Hall, founder of Stabbing

Corporate Synergy
Why tour individually to support upcoming releases when you can promote three records
on one tour?  Godhead, Ra and Il Nino all have albums set to be released in the next few
months on Cement Shoes Records.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Supernova - Reality-TV Band Hits the Road

The winner of the CBS-TV reality show ‘Rock Star’ will be just that when he or she takes the stage with the rest of the band at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve. This is the first stop of a 27-city tour that should include tunes the new band will record together as well as hits from the other three famous members of the band.

The Band
Supernova was born, not in the romantic traditional way of members placing ads in the Village Voice or meeting at a Bowie show in Hamburg, but in the conference rooms of a network TV studio.  With reality TV experience in the past and Motley Crue on hiatus, Tommy Lee was recruited as drummer and resident troublemaker.  With similar high- profile gigs under their belts, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and former Guns ‘N Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke signed on to complete the ‘supergroup.'  Collaborating with and producing the bands upcoming album is singer/songwriter/producer and former Marvelous 3 frontman Butch Walker, who has worked with such venerable rock acts Pink, Avril Lavigne, and Lindsay Lohan, among others.

The Songs
The new Supernova songs will largely be a collaborative effort with the current band members and Walker. Presumably, it would be in their best interests, and that of the audience, to work in some old Motley, Metallica and G ‘N R tunes.

What’s in a Name?
It seems as though the name Supernova is already taken by a California rock band, and they want it back.  The band has sued the producers of the show to stop using the name.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Gigantour- Megadeth leads army of metalheads

With the rising cost of putting on a full-scale tour, not even the dark, angry anti-establishment world of heavy metal can escape suckling on the corporate sponsorshipteat. The second go-round of the Gigantour, headlined by thrash metal pioneers Megadeth, will be brought to you by the good folks at Microsoft, more specifically the X-Box 360 game ‘Gears of War’. The 25-city tour kicks off September 6th in Boise, Idaho.

The Bands
Old-guard metal masters, Megadeth, thrashing since the early eighties, usher in a new wave of death and destruction, carrying the burning torch for the up and coming dutiful soldiers in the metal army. Dave Mustaine and company are joined by Lamb of God, Opeth, Arch Enemy, Overkill, Into Eternity, Sanctity, and the Smashup on the 2006 Gigantour. Not all bands play in all cities so check the official website for more info.

The Songs
If there is any doubt to bleak world view or state of mind of Megadeth, a quick perusal of  their song catalog should clear that right up.  With subtlety of an anvil bludgeoning you over the head,  “Wake Up Dead,’ ’99 Ways to Die,’ ‘Symphony of Destruction,’ and ‘Killing is my Business…and Business is Good’ properly convey what Megadeth is all about.  Behind that image of darkness and decay is some really fantastic guitar work being played at breakneck speed to further up the mayhem quotient.
Following this template, metal understudies Lamb of God show what they’ve learned on ‘Remorse is for the Dead,’, Overkill with ‘Playing with Spiders/Skullkrusher,' and Arch Enemy get in on the act with ‘Dead Inside.'

Back From the Dead
In 2002 Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine suffered a career-threatening arm injury that doctors predicted would prevent him from playing the guitar the only way he knew how, fast and furious.  He has since reemerged with a new Megadeth lineup and is on the eve of new album release for the band entitled ‘United Abominations’.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Keane - Brit-pop balladeers like the piano

Riding the piano-driven, falsetto-voiced wave of popularity brought on by the likes of Travis, Coldplay, and Radiohead before them, Brit-poppers Keane have embraced the softer side of arena rock, sans guitar, and carved out a nice little niche for themselves. The floppy haired boys from Sussex are out in support of their second major-label release ‘Under the Iron Sea,' which is climbing the charts worldwide leading to sold-out shows in clubs and arenas alike.

The Band
Tom Chaplin (vocals), Richard Hughes (drums), and Tim Rice-Oxley (bass, piano) grew up together in Battle, East Sussex, England.  Sharing an affinity for playing music, they formed a band in 1997 and began playing Beatles and U2 covers.  After tiring of playing others’ music in the local clubs, they relocated to London and began writing their own songs. After a few years of toiling in relative obscurity, generating no buzz from their two self-released singles, they scored a break when London-based indie-label Fierce Panda offered to put out their next single, ‘Everybody Changes.'  The song was an immediate smash on local radio and a major-label bidding war ensued.

The Songs
Many of Keane’s lighthearted tunes sound like they were explicitly written for the closing montage of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.  ‘Somewhere Only We Know,' the lead single off the debut release ‘Hopes And Fears,' is a tale of reminisce; a beautiful, pastoral composition that helped the album become one of the biggest selling in the UK in 2004. On their sophomore effort, ‘Under the Iron Sea,’ the mood has darkened.  Songs like ‘Atlantic,’ ‘Is It Any Wonder,’ and ‘A Bad Dream,’ deal with issues of alienation and doubt.

What’s In a Name?
Urban legend has it that when an old school chum of Rice-Oxley’s named Chris Martin was searching for a good name for his band, Rice-Oxley offered up the name Coldplay, Keane’s original moniker that the band thought too depressing.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Hipsters unite at Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago's Union Park

Pitchfork Music Festival
Union Park 
Ashland Ave. and Lake St. -Chicago
July 29th-30th | $20 - $30
Noon - 10 p.m.

Purveyors of music snobbery on the web and curators of last year's successful Intonation Fest, Pitchfork Media decided to parlay their increasing editorial clout and throw their own festival. Billed as a cheap alternative to the blockbuster festivals with wallet-busting prices, Pitchfork delivers some of the hottest bands on the indie-alternative circuit for a fraction of the cost of Lollapalooza or Bonaroo.  

Sure you're not going to see Radiohead or the Chili Peppers, but you also aren't going to see casual music fans clamoring to hear the latest single playing on pop-radio. This is a gathering of music fans, tried and true Pitchfork Media readers, and lovers of all things hipster.  

The lineup is stellar, with a number of bands, The Futureheads, The Walkmen, Art Brut, Mission of Burma, and Tapes 'n Tapes, to name a few, appearing on the heels of a recent album release. Other highlights include Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Band of Horses, the National, Liars, Spoon and Def Jux rappers Mr. Lif and Cage.  For 41 bands over two days for the paltry sum of $30, you can't afford not to go.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

KC’s Boogie Blast - Disco Inferno Heats Up Summer

With the way-back machine sufficiently revved up as the Summer concert season kicks into high gear, it wouldn’t be complete with out a full-blown disco revival variety show in the offing.  Enter Mr. Wayne Casey, or as he is more affectionately known, the singer for KC and the Sunshine Band. KC has rounded his closest friends from the decade that fashion forgot, be they disco divas or rhythm and blues crooners to help him take audiences back the time of big collars, bad hair and good times.

The Bands
Joining KC and the Sunshine Band in bringing the disco era into the new millennium are Philly soul vocal outfit Sister Sledge, disco queen Gloria Gaynor, and the five-brother-strong R & B singing ensemble, Tavares.

The Songs
KC and the boys enjoyed much success throughout the latter half of the 70s with good time hits ‘That’s the Way (I Like It),’ ‘I’m Your Boogie Man,’ ‘Boogie Shoes,' ‘Shake Your Booty,’ (is there a theme developing?) and of course ‘Get Down Tonight’.  Sister Sledge are probably best known for their hit ‘We Are Family’ adopted by the 1980 World Series winning Pittsburgh Pirates.  Gloria Gaynor, disco queen, gave strength to spurned women everywhere with her breakup anthem ‘I Will Survive.'  Tavares had many hits in the 70’s most notably a cover of ‘She’s Gone’ written by Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame and the Bee Gees tune ‘More Than A Woman’ which appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Double Duty
In addition to the headlining set, KC and the Sunshine Band will serve as the backing band for the other artists on the 30 city tour.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tom Petty - American Boy

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are one of those very few artists that appeal to all ages and people from all backgrounds who like music.  Everyone has at least one Petty record their collection.  The venerable Rock and Roll Hall of Famers hit the road this summer for their Highway Companions tour.

The Band
Though Petty gets the lion’s share of the credit, the Heartbreakers are not a backup band mind you, but a collaborative ensemble.  They have been playing together since 1975 and have understandably become a well-oiled machine not only in the studio, but especially on stage.  Recently though, Petty’s solo efforts have garnered the most attention, with ‘Full Moon Fever’ and ‘Wildflowers’ both going triple platinum.

The Songs
One of Petty’s most beloved tunes, ‘American Girl,’ was never released has a single, but has remained a rock radio staple since the mid 70s.  In fact many early Heartbreakers’ songs like ‘Don’t Do Me Like That,’ ‘Here Comes My Girl,’ and ‘Refugee,’ didn’t receive much attention until long after the release of “Damn the Torpedoes”.  The band enjoyed much success throughout the 80's with hits like ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More,’ 'You Got Lucky,’ and ‘Jammin Me’ (co-written with Bob Dylan).

Busy Guy
In addition to touring with the Heartbreakers, Petty is putting the finishing touches on his third solo album with collaborator and former fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne.  He also has a recurring character on the animated Fox show ‘King of the Hill’ and has his own radio show on XM Satellite radio called ‘Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure’.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Def Leppard/Journey - 80’s arena heroes unite

Bust out the stonewashed jeans and grab your lighter, Def Leppard and Journey are teaming up and bringing their slick, overproduced brand of arena rock to a town near you.  Both bands have been rockin' since the 70’s and though they have had a few lineup changes over the years, their ability to entertain the masses with infectious pop hooks has remained a constant.

The Bands
Born in Sheffield, England in 1977, the Lep has seen its share of tragedy with one
member succumbing to the perils of alcohol and another losing his arm in a car accident.
Yet they persevered, creating an accessible brand of pop-metal and selling millions of records
in the 80s and 90s.  Journey, on the other hand, is a shadow of its former self.  In fact, in this writer's opinion, they shouldn’t even be allowed to use the name anymore. Vocalist and chief songwriter Steve Perry is no longer a Journey-man.  His voice was perhaps the defining instrument in the band, but he left in the late nineties to rest up and pursue other interests.  This new guy, Steve Augeri may be able to hit those high notes, but he’s no ‘city boy, born and raised in South Detroit.'

The Songs
It’s safe to say, during any given week in the 1980’s, either a Def Leppard rocker or a
Journey tune was firmly entrenched on the top ten pop chart.  The lads from Britain first
hit it big with ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock of Ages,' bolstered by constant airplay on then
fledgling network MTV.  They followed it up with ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me,' ‘Animal,’
and ‘Hysteria.'  Journey’s success with power ballads like ‘Don’t Stop Believin',’ ‘Open
Arms,’ and ‘Faithfully’ forced similar bands of the day to search for that radio-friendly
formula.  Soon every group on the charts had at least one slow guitar weeper in their

Quite an ‘05
Steve Perry was adopted by the Chicago White Sox during their playoff run, he even
joined the team at their victory parade in downtown Chicago to sing his defining song
'Don’t Stop Believin’.  Earlier that year Journey earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of
Fame.  Def Leppard toured with Canada’s answer to Journey, Bryan Adams.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Sheryl Crow | Time to ‘Soak Up the Sun’

Much like the upbeat tempo and sunny lyrics of many of her songs, Sheryl Crow is an
enthusiastic and effervescent performer coaxing her audiences into sing-along and clap-
along mode.   Her fresh take on folky and rootsy rock dominated the airwaves in the
Nineties. With an armful of new tunes at the ready, hopefully she will be found on stage
and in the studio and out of the tabloids.

The Woman
Growing up in the Midwest, Crow once taught music to autistic children.  After moving
to LA and working as a session vocalist, she finally landed a recording contract.  She
released her fifth studio album last fall entitled ‘Wildflower’, a sophisticated,
introspective collection of songs.  Crow has come a long way from her days as a backup
singer for Don Henley and Michael Jackson.

The Songs
Since moving to California, Sheryl Crow has taken that west coast vibe and integrated it
into her music. She is at her best when her songs evoke that feeling of hangin’ at  the
beach with friends and beers.  Tunes like ‘All I Wanna Do’ ‘Steve McQueen’ and ‘Soak
Up the Sun’, all make you wanna jump in the convertible and head down to the ol’
swimming hole for a game of volleyball.

Strong Enough
After postponing concert dates earlier this year when she was diagnosed with breast
cancer, Crow has completed successful treatments and is looking forward to getting back
on the road at the perfect time to enjoy her songs, summertime.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sammy Hagar | Tequila Included

What would the summer concert season be without an appearance by the Red Rocker and
his booze soaked entourage?  With over 30 years in the biz, Hagar comes armed with a
slew of hits via his solo beginnings and from his stint as lead singer for Van Halen.
Headbangers and agave aficionados alike will jam the amphitheaters across this great
land of ours to revel in the rambunctiousness of Sammy Hagar.

The Man
Sammy is a busy guy.  On top of overseeing his two Cabo Wabo cantinas in Los Cabos,
Mexico and Lake Tahoe, occasionally dropping in to entertain the masses, he fronts his
solo band ‘The Wabos.' He also recently embarked on a new project ‘The Other Half’ with Van
Halen bassist Michael Anthony, who will also accompany him on the Summer tour.  His
Cabo Wabo brand premium tequila is a top seller as well.

The Songs
Though he became a superstar when he replaced David Lee Roth in Van Halen in 1985,
Hagar was a staple of the rock radio airwaves in the early 80’s.  Classics like ‘I Can’t Drive 55,’
Your Love is Driving Me Crazy,’ and ‘There’s Only One Way to Rock’ forged a love
affair with the suburban kids sporting long hair and cruisin' the strip in their Trans Ams.

Livin Well
At each stop along the summer tour, dubbed the "Livin' It Up", organizers will set up a
"Cabo Wabo village" that will be "jammed with bikini girls, body builders, mariachi
bands, food, drink, contests and probably some other cool stuff to boot," according to
Anthony's website.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

The Minus Five -- Alt-pop All-Stars hit the road again.


The jangly pop collective and brainchild of Young Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey , the
Minus Five is infamous for it’s revolving lineup of who’s who in alternative music.  This
time around no less than fifteen musicians contributed to their latest album, the band’s
seventh, a self titled release, also affectionately known as ‘the Gun Album.’  Every
hipster in America will be covered with this latest incarnation of the Minus Five.

The Band
A virtual All-Star team of alt-rockers and singer-songwriters, the Gun Album features
contributions from Jeff Tweedy and other Wilco-ers, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists,
Peter Buck of R.E.M., Kelly Hogan and John Wesley Harding among others.  Though the
touring band is a bit more sparse, all the artists’ influences come shining through on

The Songs
Why the Minus Five called this latest record 'The Gun Album' isn’t exactly clear.  It could be for the
huge pistol featured on the cover art or the dark lyrics focusing on death and firearms.
Whatever you call it, songs like ‘My Life as a Creep,’ ‘Rifle Called Goodbye,’ and
‘Bought A Rope’ disguise their morbid messages with bouncy, poppy beats.

The Ringer
When he’s not gathering talented musicians for his Minus Five projects, McCaughey is
able to pass the time as R.E.M’s touring guitarist.

Rob Biedermann