Against Me!, Bleached, The Dirty Nil – Bogarts – October 3

I used to LIVE for concerts. In high school, I could go to one every night and be completely fine. Sometimes, I’d even go alone and still have an amazing time with complete strangers.

Now that I hate people and get anxiety in crowds, a lot of that excitement turns to dread the closer I get to a show.

Leading up to seeing Against Me! a friend suggested we go together, since they’d already bought tickets as well. We dished about our favorite AM! albums and tracks, and she shared with me that Bleached was another band she was excited to see that night. This all helped assuage my nervousness.

The Dirty Nil were the opening act for the night, and while many times during shows, that’s a time to mill and mingle, I truly wanted to watch the performance. As my friends said, “They have just the right amount of high school angst.” They were engaging, loud, and confident.

The Canadian alt band just received the 2017 Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. True to their name, they thrive on a dirty, crunchy sound that still manages to stay tight. Their songs alone don’t do them justice – it’s their live stage presence that really makes them great.

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Cincinnati tends to have some pretty dead and uninspiring crowds at shows, and I was surprised to see that during The Dirty Nil, there were people nodding along to the music, truly listening, not just standing there glassy-eyed.

I knew I was fucked after listening to their set, because this meant I’d be buying merch from every band that night.

Bleached took the stage next, and we were all excited to see what they had in store.

Sisters Jennifer and Jessica formed Bleached in 2011 after their band Mika Miko ended in 2009. To me, they’re a mix of grunge and punk with an unapologetic 90s vibe and killer hooks.

Jennifer once said in an interview that their producer told them they could go as hard as they wanted on songs because their hooks were so catchy. I feel like that defines a lot of their catalog.

Unfortunately, though, the sound quality really bummed me out, because I had a hard time distinguishing Jennifer’s vocals from the instruments. I’d catch about every 3rd or 4th word of her songs, but their energy alone kept the gig afloat. Later on, my husband added that it might have just been some sort of sonic black hole that we fell into based on where we were standing in the room. Bogart’s is notorious for spotty acoustics.

At the end, Jennifer traded spots with their drummer and the band continued tearing it up – proving that they’re multi-instrumentalists (or amazing at faking it) and that they really know how to end their set.

I ended up purchasing both Ride Your Heart and Welcome The Worms on vinyl from Jennifer and Jessica at their merch booth. I HATE meeting bands that I enjoy because all I can ever muster is a “Thanks! You’re amazing!” No, but really: they are.

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Normally by the time the lead act comes on for the night, I’ve been miserably shifting my weight from one foot to the other, waiting for hours. But given the performances from the opening acts, it seemed like the night flew by.

Against Me! took the stage, with “True Trans Soul Rebel”, and it only got better from there. Their set list was a great mix of almost every album, with tracks ranging from “Miami” to “333” to “Sink, Florida, Sink”.

This is the third time I’ve seen them in concert, and over the years they’ve just gotten more impressive. My husband Brandon and I both noted that Laura Jane Grace seems SO much happier than the first time I saw them in concert years ago. She’s finally able to be herself, and it shows in her body language, stage banter, and general performance.

Another highlight for Brandon was Atom Willard’s unrelenting drumming. I couldn’t overlook Inge’s boyish smile the whole time – he legitimately looked thrilled to be on stage, and he was so fun to watch. James Bowman is the anchor of AM!, though. His backing vocals and solos really shine and you can tell that Laura and he have a great trust and rapport, often switching off seamlessly. After all, James has been with Laura since AM! started.

While we loved every original song the band played, a surprisingly emotional moment happened when they busted out a cover of recently-deceased Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream.” Damn, they really did that song beautiful justice.

Truly, the night couldn’t have been better for us. The crowd didn’t behave like a bag of dicks, the bands had incredible enthusiasm and passion, and I learned I should definitely get my ass to more concerts.

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Big Time in the Jungle – Old Crow Medicine Show

Years ago when privacy settings were tossed to the side on Facebook, I stumbled across this song posted on a local tattoo artists page.

I had convinced myself for years that I didn’t like country, bluegrass, or anything that even remotely sounded like it. But even at that time, the stark message of this song and the talent of Old Crow Medicine Show hit me hard.

I’d read multiple books about Vietnam, watched documentaries, and talked to veterans and it’s still impossible to grasp what war does to people without seeing it yourself. Hearing the very-real tale that OCMS spun in this song endeared me to the storytelling side of country/bluegrass. I was able to see value, history, and genius in a genre that I once thought was just a bunch of hillbillies.

Vietnam historically changed American views on war. Prior to Vietnam, war hadn’t been televised. Now, explosions, death, and pain were being broadcast into American living rooms. It turned the tide of American opinion, showing them that war had casualties on all sides – both mentally and physically. With stories of villages like Cam Ne being burnt to the ground, Americans became more opposed to war. They were seeing that civilians were dying, and understanding (for perhaps the first time) what young men and women were being exposed to.

The historic term of “shell shock,” now switched to PTSD, a broad-range term describing many of the symptoms soldiers face post-war. When soldiers returned home, they weren’t labeled heroes as their doughboy predecessors. Thanks to the media portrayal, they were viewed as “baby killers,” psychopaths, and degenerates. All for serving in war they were drafted into.

OCMS spins this tale in a beautifully heartbreaking way. One that I think both those who are chest-pounding patriotic and war-wary can appreciate.

I got nothin’ left in the States for me
I wanna see the world you see
I know that Uncle Sam needs me
To fight for an ideal
I know nothing about
Oh the drop point was dusty
and the drill sergeant was loud
And he could not see the corpses
for the ragin’ dust cloud
Grab your duffle bags,
head to the checkpoint
Welcome to Vietnam, boys,
you’re in for a hell of a fight
Take it from the ones who know

Seashore – The Regrettes

While perusing YouTube on a slow day, The Regrettes popped up in my “Recommended” section. Out of curiosity and boredom, I gave them a listen.

The song and video paired perfectly, and before I knew it, I’d spun the track at least three times.

I’ve had a real problem with “mansplaining” lately, and men not taking my feedback or input seriously. Now that I work at a concert venue part-time, I have a lot of men who think that “acting cute,” toward me will get special treatment. Even just a “hey girl,” can make my skin crawl.

Hearing lead singer Lydia sing, “You’re talkin’ to me like a bitch. Do you ever hear the way that you speak? Don’t have to be so mean just ‘cuz you’re weak,” is SO gratifying.

I’m tired of minimizing the poor behavior of others. Aren’t you? Don’t you ever get tired of downplaying inappropriate behavior to keep others comfortable? I, for one, am tired of sacrificing my own comfort just to avoid confrontation.

I think The Regrettes are too. Which is why I think I’ll be listening to them a lot more from now on.

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Hop Along – Tibetan Pop Stars

Few songs get me this pumped from the first note. The guitar riff mixed with Frances Quinlan’s ragged vocals make you feel like a badass. Quinlan’s voice goes from soft to violent, and it’s clear that she’s in total control of it, but it still feels on-the-edge enough to excite you.  When she suddenly drops down into a softer, more seductive tone and croons, “Nobody deserves you the way that I do,” I think it’s ultimately relatable, but also empowering. It’s not common for someone to come out and state something so boldly and assuredly.

In an interview with Westword, Quinlan said:

When describing her performance, “people use the word ‘urgency’ a lot,” she says. “I appreciate urgency, but that’s not really the first thing I’m going for. Urgency means ‘What’s the quickest way I can get this across?’ I’d like to think of it more as ‘What’s the best way to get this across?’”

For some reason, when I listen to this song, I can’t help sing along. I know I sound like shit, but I’m having so much fun that I don’t care.

Hop Along has a distinct power in their music that makes the listener feel engaged and enthralled. Nothing they create sounds like an accident or mistake. It’s carefully created by musicians that have different interests that all manage to intersect.

While they now have two albums out, I’d advise anyone new to them to listen to their LP “Get Disowned,” first. Find their sound, savor it, and move on to their other powerful storytelling.

 

Carolina – Harry Styles

This is a name I never thought would hit my blog. When I heard “Sign of the Times,” I knew I liked it, but then when I found out who sang it, I was in shock.

I’ve said this before, but sometimes you have to drop the musical snobbery and just enjoy something that’s good. Like, undeniably good. If I weren’t to know this was Harry Styles, it would have been in instant rotation. If I judged it by the fact that it was by Harry Styles, it never would have hit rotation. And that’d be a huge loss.

One Direction fans always sickened me with their obsessiveness. It was like 1D could do no wrong, and that automatically made me leery of them. It didn’t help that their music felt generic and their audience were about 12 years-old.Fans-In-Crowd-Screaming

After leaving One Direction, Harry Styles took a decidedly 60s/70s vibe in both appearance and musical approach. High pitched repetitive vocals, open-chested shirts, and clunky guitars seem to be the name of the game for him now. The best example of this is the ultra-catchy “Carolina,” which is gaining a following already.

He is definitely doing is due-diligence to shed the “boy band” label, and be viewed as a heavy-hitter in the writing/composition side of the industry.

The entire self-titled album he recently released is an easy listen. There’s a constant thread of similarity in songs, but they differ enough to each pique your interest. I’d say give it a listen, even if you’re a Motorhead fan. It’ll soften you to this 1D member. And if that doesn’t do the trick, watch the recent Carpool Karaoke with him. Endearing and talented. Two words I didn’t think would describe Mr. Styles.

Love – Lana Del Rey

My obsession with Lana Del Rey is absolutely nothing new. I heard, “Born to Die,” right after it was released in 2011. I immediately bought her album and never looked back.

The sultry siren picked up a lot of soundtrack gigs shortly after, being featured on Maleficent, The Great Gatsby, and more.

I fell off the Lana bandwagon sometime in 2013. I thought I’d heard all I could from her, and her voice just wasn’t inspiring me like it used to. (Definitely a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation).

Fast-forward to 2017. I decided to give Ultraviolence and Honeymoon a shot, and it was the best decision I’ve made this year.

Shortly after reabsorbing her into my playlists, “Love” showed up.

At first I wasn’t really sure what to do with this song. It seemed a little too sweet on the surface to me. But, as is with any Lana song, it has an underlying melancholy, foolishness, and hope.

With a slow-chugging base chord, and gun-effect, it harkens back to the 60s with images of Lana with flowers in her hair.

Pickup trucks and young hipsters floating through space fill the screen at the halfway point, and suddenly Lana is performing on the moon.

Perhaps the best part, though, is echoey bridge of, “Don’t worry, baby.”

Ultimately, the video and song have an air of naivety, and while you get the distinct feeling that this happiness will be quashed, it’s still a beautiful and dreamy listen.

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Thank God For Sinners – Ty Segall

It’s no secret that sometimes I enjoy things that are delightfully strange.

While carpooling to practice last week, a teammate and I struck up a conversation about music. “Have you ever heard of Ty Segall,” she said. I had not. She immediately played this song, and it’s been in my rotation ever since.

However, it wasn’t until I looked up the video that I realized that Ty is letting his “freak flag” fly, and it only made me love him more.

I love grungy, crunchy garage rock. The kind where the guitar and vocals sound like they’re battling sandpaper. This song has that quality.

It also helps that the title alone makes it appealing. The video has a strange effect of making me feel slightly uncomfortable as body parts rotate through a kaleidoscope of shapes and forms. At the very end, Ty’s tongue is ripped out violently by the hands that have been in the video the whole time.

His odd mix of Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and David Bowie make his music infectious, and his videos squirm-worthy.

Regardless, Ty is someone I’ll be listening to on the regular from now on. His aesthetic and sound match perfectly with a hard workout or chilling at home.

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