Praise the lords of rock.
This past week I had the privilege of attending the Big Picture Media’s 6th Annual Showcase at The Living Room as part of the CMJ Music Marathon in lovely Brooklyn, NY. The Living Room is a tiny place where one would think a fight club would make its home. It is complete with a bar upstairs that did not have its liquor license yet, c’mon now… However, they were offering up some samplings of whisky for the lucky guests. Oh, thank goodness! As one enters the music arena, speakers dangle from the ceiling by chains as the various rockers come on to do their thing. Drinks were free with special guest tickets and there was a GIF photo booth by the bar to keep things classy, courtesy of FoxTales! As luck would have it, yours truly had a chance to chat with not one, not two, but five different bands at the venue. Each group was as fascinating as the last. I had a real pleasure meeting with these awesome people. Below are some of the brief highlights from each, enjoy!
1.) Plaid Brixx:
Chris Duggan (Vocals + Guitar)
Mark Smith (Drums)
Cole Bradley (Bass)
Plaid Brixx are rockers who have a lot of energy on stage. They were the first act I got to see that evening and were responsible for getting me excited for the rest of the night. The threesome rocked hard and had all of us bobbing our heads as they filled us with vast musical spirit. After their set, I met with Chris, who might I say was the nicest and happiest guy at the showcase. He was simply ecstatic to be there performing among the lists with the other fantastic musicians. When he was not onstage, he was talking with everyone around him and taking pictures along with some amazing GIFs at the booth. Chris made friends easily all night long. He shared with me the origin of their band’s name, which spurs from his fascination with all things plaid, “I just love the design, it looks great on everything and I always thought the coolest thing would be to see a brick wall all covered in plaid.” How does that sound for a band name explaination? I think it does the trick.
He values focus in the music world and coveys his desire to treat his creative role as a business. James Brown once said, “It is not the music business, its music AND business.” As a musician he acts upon his decisions as responsibly as he can, which is why he does not drink alcohol. “I want to stay in control,” says Chris, “this is as much as a business as it is a creative outlet, and I need to do it well.” I see a future music producer folks! Most of Plaid Brixx’s musical inspiration is powered by the love of the ladies. (Good choice fellas). The fascination and desire for the other gender is one of immense musical power in their music. Perhaps in all music in a way. Speaking of which, Chris’ perfect woman is one who is extremely intelligent and has a great taste in music. So ladies, prepare wisely.
2.) Somebody’s Darling:
Amber Farris (Lead Vocals + Guitar)
David Ponder (Lead Guitar)
Wade Cofer (Bass + Vocals)
Michael Talley (Keys + Vocals)
Nate Weden (Drums)
Of the entire line up that night, Somebody’s Darling was the only band that I was excited about and familiar with. As a fan, I was a bit star struck once they came on stage. Amber with the golden locks of wild hair welcomed us and gave a great intro for the set to come. The band are more than just southern rockers, they put an amazing spin on indie rock full with danceable tunes. The crowd thickened upon their jam session and immediately began tapping their feet. “Back to the Bottle,” is my favorite tune from the group and I love their bluesy sound which is supported by Amber’s powerful voice. I spoke with Amber after their set and she could not have been any nicer. Again, me being star struck, I was very nervous to chat with her. Luckily, she was extremely gracious and easy to talk to. She spoke upon the bands focus on keeping their music fresh with a good combo of fresh tunes while also keeping true to their southern rock roots. They are all about quality, not quantity. I could hear that plain enough with their catalogue of songs.
With Somebody’s Darling, the listener is never bored. The band’s music constantly keeps you riled up and ready to go. Earlier that week I was listening to their stuff on my computer at my office but did not realize that the headphone jack was not connected. All my colleagues looked over at my desk and instead of being annoyed, gave me a thumbs up and high praise. (Cue Andy Samberg’s Nicholas Cage impression) That’s the power of Somebody’s Darling.
(Photo by Kaitlyn McQuaid)
3.) The Future Laureates:
James Hyde (Bass + Vocals)
Matthew Daigler (Ukelele + Vocals)
Danny Surico (Guitar + Vocals)
Rob Durkee (Drums/Percussion + Vocals)
Andrew Bockelman (Guitar + Vocals)
These young guys were the first folks I got to speak to at The Living Room. They were the most care free of the bunch and extremely relaxed. I was able to chat with 3 of the guys and they elaborated with me the journey of their name origin and how it came to fruition via a fan/friend Facebook thread. Got to admire keeping it simple people, the name game is always the hardest thing in music. True Chicagoans and feeling the love of being in New York, we hit it off right away amongst our shared obsession for the band Guster. It is always a pleasure meeting fellow Gusteroids. These guys also seemed the most interesting to me as they noted in several instances that their sound is varied in genre specificity. “We started out trying the folksy sound which immediately changed to a more bluesy soul tune,” said Andrew. “We try to combine chunks of everything,” replied Matthew who then started sharing various musical inspirations such as The Beatles, Ben E. King and Guster, who have all contributed to their unique taste as musicians.
We all shared lots of laughs as we compared our fondness, or lack thereof, of the Chicago and Finger Lakes weather. As a Buffalonian, I know the perils of lake effect winters all too well. Despite the rain in Brooklyn that night, the fellas were excited and exclaimed several times that, “this is happening,” with anticipation and excitement for the show to come. I see a bright musical future for them after CMJ.
4.) Alexz Johnson:
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Alexz Johnson (Singer/Songwriter)
Oh my God, you guys. Out of everyone at this CMJ gathering, Alexz was by far the most surprising. I had listened to this crooning seductress earlier in the week to prepare myself for this night. All I can say is that the studio recordings do not do her voice justice at all. As great as they are, her soulful and amazingly powerful voice blew me away as she began to sing on stage live. She had the entire crowd captivated and in awe. Ladies were whooping and hollering after each song and the gentlemen were all immediately in love. Now, I am a taken man, but my goodness, I may have gotten lost in her singing as she held the microphone stand close and made lovely motions that gave us the chills. Her band is an amazing compliment to her voice; all of the men were rocking away and were following her lead. At one point in the performance, there was an abrupt pause where she gave us all a dramatic lingering in which she then immediately graced us again with her voice. It was fascinating to see the band react as they held their gaze upon her in that moment to make sure they were completely in tune. Her bassist had a huge grin on his face as she sang that final note. It was almost as if she had succeeded in making music magic right then and there. I believe she did. As I walked to meet with her after the set, I noticed all the bands in the crowd were just marveling over the performance they had just witnessed. It was astoundingly awesome to see their jaws still dropped.
Alexz is lovely to chat with. Her smile made me feel welcome and we hit it off right away. She was most proud of her attire that evening which was a stunning black dress with an open back; fellas were turning their heads left and right as she walked on by. We chatted mostly about her performance and then moved onto how lucky she feels to have such a great band to support her. “These guys are just amazing, I can’t believe that I get to perform with not only amazing musicians, but great friends,” says Alexz, “its great to have a group a people that you can spend so much time with.” Examples included sharing the same beds, traveling on the road all the time and eating random foods wherever it could be found. Fair enough, that seems like quite an adventure in itself. We continued on chatting about her love for NYC and the thrills of finding new things all the time here. As our talk ended, she complimented me on my beard, in which I blushed and as cool as I possibly could, thanked her for the time. Man up, Myles!
Caleb Turman (Guitar + Vocals)
Rico Andradi (Drums)
Take some hard rock and put some wild craziness in there and you get the one and only TEAM. These guys were having so much fun on stage you had to enjoy it. Rico’s crazy hair was alive with every beat of the drums while his sweating band mates trailed on. I was very impressed at how much life these guys put into their music. There was nobody on the floor who did not have a head bouncing or feet tapping. It was impossible not to dance a little bit to their sound. After their set I met with Caleb to shoot the bull. We hung near the bathroom, because that’s where the cool kids do interviews. Caleb, who holds ownership of this musical endeavor reiterates how much he missed the small venues, “I love the sweat, heat and nasty smells that come with these small shows, I need to be in the thick of it all to feel the vibe and enjoy performing. Big shows are great, but they get too clogged up with other things that get in the way.”
Following this deep musical mantra, Rico came out of the bathroom to say hello. Of course his hands were soaked with God knows what as he shook my hand and stumbled off. Caleb tried to apologize on his behalf, but I just looked at him and calmly said, “hey, that’s rock n’ roll.” We laughed it off and then got into a rather humorous discussion of his trademarked mustache. Our fascination with storing objects such as pens, phones and perhaps a flock of birds in facial hair contributed to an additional good five minutes of conversation. I was very pleased. A final word from Caleb regarding musical art, “I can’t picture myself doing anything else, this is what inspires me and if you don’t do what inspires you, what else is there?”
Fine words to end a fine night, so until the next CMJ bash, stay classy y’all.