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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Audiotree Session – Charly Bliss

The cold has officially gripped Cincinnati, and man, it’s rough. My car doesn’t want to start, my body doesn’t want to function, and everything is Frozen frozen.  (No but really, I hate that movie.)

I was fighting to find motivation at the gym one night, and I told myself, “If I can make it through this circuit workout, I’ll watch/listen to Charly Bliss’ Audiotree session.

Typically, I’m not a fan of “live” anything aside from being in-person at a concert. I hate live albums and I find it painful listening to the recorded stage banter.

But this Audiotree session is different. For one, the sound quality is pretty impeccable. It’s easy to forget at certain points that it’s being live-recorded, which I think speaks to both their engineers, and the band.

This video/recording is also so damned charming. Charly Bliss doesn’t seem to have an ego, and they’ll answer any question without pause. The interviewer is also delightfully awkward at points. He does a great job at seeming both excited to talk to them, and also willing to ask a good mix of goofy and insightful questions.

Charly Bliss is often described as a “bubblegum grunge” band, and they largely remind me of the bands that took the forefront in “10 Things I Hate About You.” I feel like I’m getting another taste of one of my favorite movies.

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The band was formed in 2014, and many of its members have true musical experience and stage knowledge, Eva has a BFA in Recorded Music, and others have Musical Performance, Creative Writing, and Theatre degrees. There’s definitely something behind their catchy choruses and hooks.

So far the band has unfortunately only released EP’s (and a comic book series?!), but they’ve shown a strong effort, and those songs alone are capable of making me hang on for dear life waiting for their full release.

I’d suggest giving Charly Bliss a spin if you need motivation or just to rock out against the depressing winter backdrop.

2am – Bear Hands

Connecticut-based hipster rock usually isn’t something I go out of my way to hear.

But when “2am” crossed my headphones, I just kept hitting the “repeat” button.

Bear Hands originated in New York, despite their CT roots, and quickly became a buzz band in the NY music scene.

Listening to them reminds me of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, music lovers traipsing across the city to find an elusive and important band. I feel like people would do that to listen to Bear Hands.

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The reason “2am” piqued my interest was the catchiest hook I’ve heard in awhile, “Nothing good happens past 2am.”

As a music fan, and a 20-something, I can relate from personal experience. Their sentiment is spot-on. Every time I’ve drank too much, fought with friends, or made a general ass of myself, it was in the witchy hours past 1 or 2am. Lucky me. And I’m sure I’m not unique in that.

I think part of the familiarity and comfort I feel with Bear Hands music comes from lead vocalist Dylan Rau, who in my ears, sounds like Ben Davis of Cincinnati duo Bad Veins.

And with less than 600,000 YouTube views on their “2am” video, if you’re all about being on the up-and-up, it looks like you’ll still be finding this band before they’re at the zenith of their fame. Good on you.

 

 

I’ve Got Friends – Manchester Orchestra

When I was in college I discovered Manchester Orchestra through Pandora. The first song that I ever heard from them was “I’ve Got Friends.” Andy Hull’s voice was sweet, but it had anger behind it. The lyrics were like poetry – I could relate, but I wasn’t always 100% sure of artist intent.

After delving into their catalogue, I went to Shake-It and bought the two albums they had out at the time: I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child and Mean Everything to Nothing.

I have mixed emotions about what Manchester Orchestra means to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had severe depression. I would soak their music in –  it was like a drug for my depression; it made me feel better, but sometimes it just made things worse. I remember screaming along to many of the songs, thoroughly upset, and unsure why.

I’d drive around Cincinnati at night listening to these albums, crossing the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge. During the day, I’d play them on repeat in my car, and even the sunny summer days are cloudy and dark in my memory. I was floating through my life, existing, but detached from myself.

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“I’ve Got Friends,” was ironic to me at the time. I did have friends, but my depression made it hard for me to appreciate them, or feel their impact – to feel anything. My life was a jumble, and I just couldn’t figure out how to unknot it.

Now, I can easily say that I’m surrounded by SO many fantastic people that I’m lucky to know. I’m able to see them, feel their support, and acknowledge when it’s my depression talking and not reality.

For me, Manchester Orchestra was that weird place between being asleep and awake. I knew that something wasn’t quite right – something didn’t add up. They helped me get through that time, but not in a wholly healthy way. Maybe someday, now that I know these things, I’ll be able to dig into Cope and Hope. We’ll see.

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If you or someone you know or love is experiencing depression, please seek a local mental health professional – I promise it’s worth it. If the situation is dire, please call 1-800-273-8255. This hotline is available 24/7. 

The Next Storm – Frank Turner

Sometimes when I’m feeling adventurous I’ll turn on WNKU and open my mind to new music.

Yesterday, I was helping my friend Jarrett move, and as I drove across town to his new place, Frank Turner came on the radio.

I was enjoying the song so much that I forgot to Soundhound it, and when I checked at the end of the song, I couldn’t find it!

So I went to WNKU’s website and looked through their playlists, playing everything that sounded faintly familiar until I found it.

And then I rejoiced.

When I finally saw the video, there was an interesting focal point: CM Punk.

The song is uplifting and up-tempo, urging you to think that it’s positive. But there’s a rougher undercurrent that reminds me almost of Flogging Molly.

Maybe it’s the fact that the band is wearing suspenders and they’re in a boxing ring. I surely hope that my comparison standards aren’t that low. *shrug*

Regardless, Frank Turner has an intriguing voice and some great metaphors in his lyrics that made me want to hear the whole of Positive Songs for Negative People.

I appreciate his tongue-in-cheek approach to both his album title and music in general. Turner was the frontman for a post-hardcore band, which explains the edge to his voice. He won awards for Hardest-Working Artist and Best Live Act from AIM in 2011, which shows that Turner has a solid foundation in the community he’s a part of.

With an interesting personal history, and thoughtful, fun songs to go along with it, I’d say that Turner is deserving of an extended listen. Give him a spot in your rotation. He’ll win you over, too.

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Stormy Southern Gothic

Didja know that was a genre?! Yeah, well, I didn’t either.

I can’t say enough about this playlist. Forreal.

The other day in Cincinnati, it was so dark that it looked like it was nighttime. The rain was sure to hit us hard, and I needed something that could motivate me to do work. (Usually during gloomy weather, I just want to curl up with a blanket.)

There’s so many standouts on here, but it’s still chill enough to not steal away your focus. My favorite was “Hell’s Bells,” a slithery, sensual ballad that was apparently featured in “True Blood.”

The playlist is a hearty mix of chugging old-style country, folk and some cajun influences. It reminds me of how I imagine New Orleans would feel. Down-home, spooky and comforting all at the same time.

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First Album Love

Whenever I find an artist, I always look through their entire catalogue, afraid that I missed something pivotal.

But I always end up coming back to the first album I heard by them. Even when I know it isn’t their best work, it still manages to be my favorite.

Case in point?

Alkaline Trio – Crimson
Social Distortion – White Light, White Heat, White Trash 
Rancid – Indestructible 
AFI – Sing the Sorrow
NOFX – The War on Errorism
Every Time I Die – The Big Dirty
New Found GlorySticks and Stones
The Black Keys – Magic Potion
Against Me! – Searching for a Former Clarity

Okay, I think I made it clear.

For some reason, there’s a thrill and memory associated with when you fell in love with an artist. Even if, in your heart, you know it isn’t their best work, the first album you hear will always shine brightest. Some of my best memories were made listening to these cds. I still remember being in middle school and buying, White Light, White Heat, White Trash at FYE and listening to it on my Walkman in the car on the way home. I was so excited to hear those songs, and to find a new sound that I’d never known – a sound that no one around me in suburban Indiana had known.

That sparked my love of Social Distortion, who were my favorite band for years. I even remember going to see them in concert and teachers from my high school were at the show. We had more in common than we’d initially realized, and even though they were my instructors, I considered them friends.

I can pinpoint the moment I heard the opening riff to “No Son of Mine,” from Every Time I Die’s The Big Dirty. The same car trip that inspired my love of ETID fueled my passion for Against Me!. I was on a trip to Bloomington to suss out IU with some friends, and they played Searching for a Former Clarity. “Miami” stuck with me. I can remember subsequently going into Shake It Records to buy copies of both albums, and being ridiculously excited.

A friend burnt Indestructible for me in high school. In all reality, she was a bully that I didn’t really like, but I befriended her to avoid conflict. I asked her to burn cd’s for me that I didn’t have the money to buy. At the time, Tim Armstrong’s voice was worth putting up with her. I listened to that album on repeat while mowing the lawn at home. It was the soundtrack to many a summer sunburn.

As I tried to distance myself from the bully girl, I found myself going to the local library to get albums and burning them to my computer. That’s where I scrounged up Magic Potion and countless others. Surely the librarians knew that when I checked out STACKS of cds, I wasn’t just taking them home to listen to. But they never said anything.

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It’s not like all this pirating was for nefarious reasons. I was a high school kid who was sonically starved and something had to feed that addiction. At least I was nerdy enough to hang out in the library instead of other places.

More than any other, I remember my first New Found Glory album. I’d been bullied A LOT by a jock in middle school. He would harass me virtually every day, and the teacher didn’t do anything. I was angry, hurt and felt violated. My mom knew about it, so when we went to Bigg’s one evening, she bought me Sticks and Stones. She gently asked me if I liked it when I took my headphones off briefly in the car.

Even though I was a shitty, bratty, angry teenager, I appreciated her act of support. She felt helpless watching her daughter be picked on. But she knew what made me feel better and wanted to supply that to me, even if she didn’t fully understand.

The main thing that ties all of these albums together is that they served as different milestones for me. Whether I’m embarrassed to admit that I like those artists or not, I can’t forget the effect that the music had on me. It served as my therapist, my solace, my friend, my ammunition.

I think it’s incredibly important to pay homage to the albums that inspire us and get us through rough spots. There’s no reason to feel sheepish when an artist or album resonates with you. That means there’s a chord to be struck, and not everyone has that depth or emotional awareness.