Genie Santiago's Sunflowers Series was created to provide fans with the opportunity to hear and get to know their favorite local Boston artists better. In an intimate performance setting, artists are able to share their talent, experience, and story with fans. This third Sunflowers event featured Genie Santiago, Anais Azul, Ava Sophia, and Brandie Blaze.
Sold Out Night #1 of the Summer is Forever II tour came out of the gate with the punk pop roar of LA's Cherry Glazerr performing "Had Ten Dollaz." I knew it was going to be a good night when Clementine Creevy announced "this is a song about my period!" and, by golly, I was right. Not sure how Best Coast and Wavves chose Cherry Glazerr to open this tour, but they couldn't have found a better fit. The cherry on top of their pop punk wonderland of a ten-song set was "Grilled Cheese" - ending on a perfect lo-fi note to leave the audience on their toes in anticipation of Best Coast, next up on the bill.
Best Coast, taking the stage to the thunderous cheers of the crowd at the sold out Royale, kicked off their set with the slow burn of "When I'm With You," and proceeded to dig right into the uber-popular "Crazy for You," knocking out a flawless set of about fifteen killer tunes. Bethany Cosentino is a powerhouse (on stage and off - have you read this?) and, together with the equally talented Bobb Bruno, they bring us the sweetest of California dreams; for a few songs, I even felt like I should be slow dancing underneath the stars on a beautiful California night. With the audience hanging on to Cosentino's every word and note, they crowd-surfed to gloomier songs, causing her to mention "you're unconventional - I like that." Wrapping up with the trio of "Boyfriend," "Our Deal" (my absolute favorite), and "When Will I Change," Best Coast showed us why they have so rapidly ascended to the forefront of rock and show no signs of slowing down.
Co-headliner and third band at bat, Wavves (they swap each night with Best Coast), an all-male band from San Diego, came out to a riled-up crowd, playing "Sail to the Sun," blowing us all away with their rad punk-surf sound, playing a solid set, encouraging everyone to crowd surf, and even passing out alien-shaped balloons at one point. Lead singer Nathan Williams, wearing cuffed jeans, khaki boots, and a black t-shirt blazed through hits such as "Mickey Mouse," "Nine is God," "Idiot," and "Heart Attack." In support of their latest album, V, Wavves, along with the stellar Best Coast and standouts Cherry Glazzer, brought Boston a few hours of the summer we've been yearning for since the fall came upon us.
For the first night of her tour and hot on the heels of her latest release, Blood To Bone, New Zealand’s Gin Wigmore hit Cambridge’s it-was-so-close-to-being-sold-out-that-I’m-calling-it-sold-out Sinclair, with her perpetually on-point band, scorching the stage right from the first lick of “New Rush.” Wigmore’s band is absolutely on point – the perfect backdrop to her equally fragile and ferocious lyrics – accompanying her as our tour guides on this expedition through the impeccable world of Gin. Performing a larger part of Blood to Bone’s stellar tracks, yet sprinkled with previous album nuggets “Kill of the Night,” “Hey Ho,” and “Man Like That,” Wigmore captivated – glowing and carefree, growling and purring, shimmying across the stage, joyful and proud – clearly delighted to be there.
Gin has a beguiling and ferocious stage presence – Wigmore’s unique voice and performance are bursting with love and a true passion, grateful for every moment on stage. There’s a beautiful old school tinge to her sound, bringing names like Stevie Nicks, Amy Winehouse, Etta James, and Janis Joplin to mind. However influenced, Wigmore isn’t to be limited to one genre, which is a huge part of what makes her all the more appealing. It hovers around smart and brazen soul-rock-folk, if you must have some genre frame of reference.
Gin Wigmore is captivating and magical; and Gin Wigmore’s band are the sublime magician’s assistants that complete the show (sans revealing costume, but you’re welcome for that Halloween idea, guys). Playing off of each other, bringing unparalleled energy and skills to the stage, these guys clearly enjoy every second. The five men in black – Dave Goodison and John Schreffler on guitars; Steve Padin on drums; Rocco Dellaneve on keys; Joey Secchiaroli on bass – contributing to the fiery, aural excellence, nearly rocked the doors off the hinges of The Sinclair. Tough to choose just one favorite (or even ten) of the night, the band blasted out catchy “New Rush” and “Written in the Water,” keeping the whole place on their toes. And just to solidify the unity of six beautiful souls shining on stage, they sealed this musical love letter with a kiss of perfection in the form of an a cappella version of “I Will Love You,” which brought down the house (and a few tears with it).
Selling out at least half of the ten-stop US tour thus far, with one UK gig already being venue-upgraded due to not-surprising high ticket demand, the zeal for Wigmore is undoubtedly on a swift path to a long-running fever pitch. With her two previous albums having gone platinum in New Zealand, there’s no question it’s just a matter of time before Blood to Bone joins them. The evolution of Gin has brought us here today to this performance and to this album, teeming with raw, emotional lyrics. Intense and witty; sassy and bold; delicate yet tough-as-nails; this featherweight is a vocal heavyweight and absolutely, without a doubt, played one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. There is nothing better than expecting greatness at a show and an artist destroying those expectations by delivering a truly haunting and staggeringly divine performance.
Love. That is my one word review of JOHNNYSWIM‘s Christmas show at The Sinclair.
Not much more needs to be said regarding the gorgeous husband-and-wife duo of Amanda Sudano Ramirez and Abner Ramirez; however, I shall elaborate. Radiant, inspiring, and downright flawless, on the final night of their holiday tour Sudano and Ramirez had the sold-out crowd in the palm of their hands through the last moment of the show. Steering us through their set – amidst glances at each other only the most amorous can imagine – of the most splendid combination of holiday and JOHNNYSWIM tunes – and JOHNNYSWIM holiday tunes – the two bantered and beamed at each other throughout; it was difficult to tell who was glowing more from the anticipated birth of their son. Playing their genre-crossing folk-pop, it’s nearly impossible to find any other artists to compare, despite being backed by a full band. JOHNNYSWIM touched on all of their releases, effortlessly performing songs such as “Diamonds,” “A Million Years,” “Take the World,” and my personal favorite “You and I,” perfectly harmonized while melting into each other. A band I, myself, discovered through the magic of a brief appearance on Linda Perry’s VH1 show “Make or Break” (and Perry’s mind-blowing ability to select hit-makers within five minutes of viewing them), JOHNNYSWIM exudes a presence of unparalleled positivity, dedicating their song “Take the World” to the couples in the audience; making it clear why they so frequently get asked to perform at weddings.
In case their words and presence weren’t inspiring enough, humanitarians Sudano and Ramirez discussed their affiliation with Food for the Hungry (http://fh.org/), an organization serving the poor globally, specializing in short-term emergency relief and long-term work to end world hunger. The band took a short fifteen-minute intermission allowing those in attendance to visit the merch booth and sponsor a child in need anywhere in the world; on top of the band’s existing donations to non-profit Visiting Orphans (http://www.visitingorphans.org/) of 100% of each sale of their song “Hallelujah.”
With an uncanny ability to draw in even the most eclectic of crowds, there is no doubt that uber-charismatic Sudano and Ramirez will be enchanting for generations to come – it makes those watching from afar anxious for their next act. Any adjective imaginable pales in comparison to the feeling of being in an intimate venue with this pair. While showing a genuine appreciation you don’t often see, JOHNNYSWIM were welcoming, warm, and truly dazzling, leaving the crowd to venture out into the chilly night, blissful and full of love.
Photos from the evening can be seen below:
Aimee Mann and Ted Leo have been immersed in the music scene for a huge part – if not all – of their adult lives; them coming together to form The Both is just the icing on the cake for anyone who has followed either of their careers. The Both performed at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on Friday, April 25th to a jam-packed house. They casually took the stage and instantly eased the room’s restless anticipation of their performance. One thing I can say for this pair – not only are they perfectly harmonious, but they’re also getting better with age – in sound and looks; Leo looking disarmingly casual yet quite fetching and buff in black pants and shirt, black wristband cuff, rockstar-style and the foxy and statuesque Mann in shorts, fishnets, leather jacket, black-rimmed glasses, and Converse, each commanding their side of the stage with their six-foot tall presence.
Both Mann and Leo have had highly successful solo careers, releasing eight and nine albums, respectively – Leo as the frontman for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists for those nine. Ted Leo has a massive cult following due to his history of punk and indie rock with bands like Puzzlehead, Animal Crackers, Chisel, and Hell No. To provide a description right from the horse’s mouth, his Twitter bio reads “Journeyman/Virgo-Dog/Bodhichitta Warrior in training,” which really does sum it all up for this jack of all trades; he is also highly engaging and captivating on said account. Having never seen Leo live before, I didn’t know what to expect, but I found him to be the perfect accompaniment to Mann; both (no pun intended) effortlessly switching up lead vocals and playing riffs others only dream of.
Aimee Mann has a history of mind-blowingly well crafted songs (her lyrics are literary masterpieces) that are deeply observational, melancholy and sometimes baneful, yet deadly accurate, poignant, and fearlessly honest; she has always been unique with her sound and in her writing. It’s hard to find words to describe someone you’ve held as one of your personal heroes for nearly 20 years, as I was drawn into the web of Mann circa the release of “I’m With Stupid” in ’95 and have yet to find myself deterred. Doing things on her own terms with indie label SuperEgo Records, Mann freed herself from the ties that had previously bound her in major label hell, making her an even more successful independent artist. Can you really get more honored than having someone (Paul Thomas Anderson) write an entire screenplay (Magnolia) due to inspiration from four lines (“Now that I’ve met you / Would you object to / Never seeing / Each other again”) in one of your songs (“Deathly”)? Then again, there is the Best Song Academy Award and Grammy nomination for “Save Me” (see Mann’s Twitter bio revealing the results), being featured on Magnolia’s 1999 soundtrack, and having another song (“Wise Up) be an integral part of the film’s awe-inspiring sequence with each of the downtrodden characters singing a portion of the lyrics. Some latecomers may also recognize Mann from the “housekeeper” episode (entitled “Aimee”) of Portlandia’s first season.
The duo, in their charming and witty repartee – Mann with her deadpan dialogue and Leo with his lovable, mellow punk rock attitude – shared four adages of relationship advice found scrawled backstage at their previous night’s show in Northampton, one of them being, “Lock it down!” Throughout the night, the two artists played their catchy single “Milwaukee,” in addition to a mix of their solo songs and a choice few from their Both album (“You Can’t Help Me Now” and “Bedtime Stories”). They ended the night with a stellar rendition of Mann’s 1985 hit song “Voices Carry” with her second band, the new wave ‘Til Tuesday. The Both are a perfect combination of two historically atypical artists; letting someone else crash their party of one may have required some tweaking of their styles, but has resulted in a natural and seamless duo that may just result in being your benchmark for musical precision.
Brooklyn-based trio We Are Scientists hit up Boston last weekend, playing to a nearly sold out Brighton Music Hall. Scotland natives Paws opened the show with a lively, high-spirited indie-punk-rock set, setting the euphoric mood off in motion towards a stellar night of We Are Scientists. And let me be blunt here – the only way you could get me to dislike these guys is if they stole my puppy.
Keith Murray and Chris Cain strode on stage to thunderous cheers from a wall-to-wall crowd, digging right into the opening chords of “Return the Favor” from their latest album, “TV en Francais.” Performing their cleverly-written songs, the affable duo pulled a prime selection from each of their previous albums; between them treating us to their just as desirable and well known quick-witted tongue-in-cheek banter. With their danceable and unique indie-rock, New York City dwelling We Are Scientists have been touring on and off (mostly on) since 2005 when they released “With Love and Squalor” – and I cannot say enough good things about them. Not one of their albums has disappointed and, after seeing them live three times now, I can truly say an accurate statement is they never have an “off” day; every note is hit, every show is one for the books, and both Murray and Cain are all heart – and unquestionably likable guys to boot. Each song is full of unwavering honesty and heavy sentiments, yet strikingly upbeat. After working the crowd with favorites such as “After Hours,” “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” and “Nice Guys,” they came back for an encore with “Impatience,” then proceeded to their merch table to meet with each and every fan looking to do so. They may have been dishing out advice , as they do regularly in the “Dear W.A.S.” section of their website; on top of recently starting their own Ad Solutions Network consisting of an “adaptable, highly-rigid set of solutions developed over many years of industry experience and experimentation.” The song is fact – rules really don’t stop them.
Knowing that she had previously performed numerous times with my old pals Antigone Rising – and how they continued to sing her praises – I couldn’t pass up the chance to catch Hannah Thomas earlier this week at Atwood’s Tavern. Heading out for a nice leisurely Sunday evening happy hour, I ended up with more than I bargained for as soon as Hannah Thomas hit the stage; she rocked our Cambridge-visiting faces right the hell back out of town. She played for almost two hours straight, cranking out nearly twenty songs – three covers (Violent Femmes, Janis Joplin, Indigo Girls) and topping the set off with originals. Thomas, being one woman with a guitar, effortlessly and sufficiently blew the room away with the talent and tenacity of a full band – a very rare find these days. Being a very staunch advocate of not pigeonholing anyone into a genre, I will, however, say that if Amy Ray, Michelle Malone, Patty Griffin, and old school Jennifer Nettles (a la Jennifer Nettles Band/Eddie’s Attic days) had a baby….congratulations, it’d be a Hannah Thomas!
Thomas is amidst a Kickstarter campaign (with 6 days to go as of this writing) – ending on April 24, 3:11pm EDT, to be exact – to record her third original album with producer and bassist Don Dixon (R.E,M., Smithereens, etc). With at least seven songs slated to be delivered (including two personal favorites – “Lie to Me” and “Drinking Alone”), you know you’re in store for some sweet sweet aural pleasure. Pledgers of this campaign can get anything ranging from a signed CD to a house concert to being in the studio with the artist herself. But be sure to get yourself on over to Hannah’s Kickstarter page and pledge before it’s too late!
Having started performing at the age of sixteen, Thomas is touring relentlessly (she drove straight to Georgia right after this show) and shared the stage with artists such as Zac Brown, Indigo Girls, Bree Sharp, Antigone Rising, and Jen Foster – just to name a few; between her badass voice and guitar handling, it won’t be long before those roles will be reversed. Oh, and this proper southern girl has a penchant for whiskey and scotch, so when you get yourself to her next show make sure the bartender delivers some Maker’s or Johnnie Walker Black – before her shows sell out so quickly you’ll be left crying in the street, knowing what you’re missing out on. Thomas is a ridiculously fantastic and dazzling gem of an artist who rises insurmountably above the music world of mediocrity. Being able to experience a two hour Hannah Thomas solo set was quite possibly one of the most well-spent Sunday happy hours anyone could’ve encountered. It may have just been said above, but, the one word review of this gig: badass.
New York City based Antigone Rising have reinvented themselves and are now back for good to seal a permanent place in your music collection. After trudging though a couple of line-up bumps in the road over the years, they’ve finally found their concrete quartet of gelling perfection. The four with the goods are: Kristen Ellis-Henderson (founding member, guitarist, author, blogger, Time cover co-star), Cathy Henderson (founding member, lead guitarist, maker of the best guitar-face[s] you’ll ever see, Kristen’s sister), Dena Tauriello (drummer/beat-keeper/human chronometer, coach, professor, most difficult band member to photograph on stage – ever.), and Nini Camps (lead singer, Miami native, NYC solo artist extraordinaire, non-blogger since 2012, whiskey imbiber).
The band has been nominated for an Independent Music Award (vote for them here) whose voting panel is overflowing with the musically au fait – Ann and Nancy Wilson, Laurie Anderson, Anthony DeCurtis, Chris and Oliver Wood, Suzanne Vega, Arturo Sandoval, Terry McBride, Kevin Lyman, Shelby Lynne, Band of Skulls, and Jason Olaine, just to name a handful. The recognition comes as a result of their constant hard work – if they aren’t playing the 280+ shows per year they used to rack up performing on the Today Show, Tonight Show, Emeril Live, and opening for the Rolling Stones, Joan Jett, Aerosmith, Allman Brothers, or Rob Thomas, then they’re crowdsourcing funds (spin class! drum lessons! house concerts!) for their latest two-part album “Whiskey and Wine.” Also big supporters of GLAAD, it doesn’t hurt that Kristen’s wife is the newly-named GLAAD president Sarah Ellis-Henderson. If that isn’t enough, then add a week on the Olivia Travel’s Caribbean Equality and Leadership Cruise to the AR itinerary, rubbing elbows with Maya Angelou, Indigo Girls, Judy Gold, Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, Meredith Baxter, and Suzanne Westenhoefer. No big deal, right? Between that list and the band, half of my personal heroes were on that ship.
Oh, and that show at Church of Boston happened, too – Friday, March 7th. Antigone Rising opened the night with “Everything Changes,” threw in a good mix of old favorites and new tunes like “Everywhere is Home,” “Call Me Crazy,” “Weed and Wine,” and the super catchy “That Was the Whiskey” (but, really, when wasn’t it the whiskey?). Proving their new-found cohesiveness, the band treated the crowd to witty banter and stories aplenty throughout the night – heartily opening up about writing their music and the truth – or lack thereof – behind “That Was the Whiskey.” It’s obvious they are now officially a solid team, with their blissful camaraderie shining through as they actively criss-cross the stage, cracking each other up, with each member getting their turn to solo, showing us how overwhelmingly talented they continue to be, and that the whiskey and wine swilling virtuosas that are Antigone Rising have risen from the ashes and the sky’s the limit.
Check out their upcoming tour dates here.
Somerville’s own Gem Club sold out Remis Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts on January 31st, in celebration of their second album, In Roses, released that day via the label Hardly Art.
Dirty Projectors member Nat Baldwin, looking a bit like a younger Hugh Dancy, opened the show effortlessly playing the hell out of the upright bass. Having previously worked with Grizzly Bear and Vampire Weekend, Baldwin was the perfect choice to kick off the night and lead us into a mesmerizing performance art presentation by Brianna Olson. As Olson stayed back in the shadows, prominently featured was Michael Pope, award-winning underground filmmaker and multi-media artist (you may recognize them from his long history of video directing and her producing with Amanda Palmer/The Dresden Dolls), bedecked in all white make-up and apparel, save the blood-red flower in his mouth. I don’t think I blinked once, for fear of missing one bit of artistic perfection.
Gem Club – Christopher Barnes, Kristen Drymala, and Ieva Berberian – took the stage to the eager applause of a full house. The trio played In Roses in its entirety, only taking a brief moment to tell a short story then thank everyone for coming. With the entire set accompanied by eagle-eyed projections of bold, beautiful tiger lilies (my personal favorite), roses, crystal-clear melting ice, sweeping plumes of smoke, and prismatic hues across a large screen, combined with the unique venue, it made for one of the most unique CD release events I’ve encountered. Perhaps my favorite backdrop motif of the night – two glitter-sodden hands aglow, grasping, reaching, yearning – occurred during their final song, “Polly” – the undulation of ghostly and divinely delectable music wrapping the evening up befittingly. The band is a refreshing break from all of the unnervingly cliche and similar-sounding artists you encounter on every corner and radio station – Gem Club is truly a diamond in the rough (pun kind of intended). Eleven delectable, heart-wrenching, ethereal songs later, the projections faded out and the house lights came up, encouraging us to be on our way, with those beautiful strokes of color filling our heads and hearts. I left feeling sanguine and overflowing with inspiration; Gem Club’s music will get under your skin, pull at your heartstrings, and send you off into the world anew – an atypical experience one mustn’t miss out on.
Wow. That’s what Sirsy does at every gig – they wow. Since their inception in 2000, these Upstate New York natives have delivered the same non-stop rock ‘n roll mastery – without exception – at each of their nearly 300 gigs performed annually (yes, really). One look at their website’s hefty list of upcoming tour dates shows you just how dedicated this band is.
Taking the stage at Johnny D’s, Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti’s energy is contagious – unmistakably they love what they do. Have I mentioned that Krahmer and Libutti are the band, yet sound like a group of six? That’s right – these two people make some gigantic sounds; if you close your eyes, you would swear it were a full-sized band. Krahmer plays a drum kit standing up, with a small keyboard to the side, while singing and also playing flute, meanwhile Libutti changes it up between bass and lead guitar. It’s enough to make Sirsy neophytes drop their drinks, do a double-take – and then immediately fall in love.
The band played a good selection from their recent release, “Coming Into Frame” – including fan favorites “Cannonball” (have you seen their uber-creative video?), “Lionheart” (which has another picturesque video), and oldie-but-goodie request “Dry.” On stage, the lively duo are chatty, amiable, and open – all the while staying focused and magnificent, with Krahmer’s voice sometimes hitting such tremendous growling depths it stops you in your tracks. The perfect compliment to Krahmer, Libutti makes his intricate guitar riffs seem effortless – at one point even walking out into the middle of the room to play amid a gaggle of fans, of course never breaking a sweat.
Over the years, Sirsy has opened for Maroon 5, Ra Ra Riot, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Cheap Trick, and a plethora of other well-known artists. Having played in 43 of the 50 states hasn’t exactly hurt their notoriety amongst these headliners, yet just seeing one of their performances should be enough to show that Sirsy is substantially too marvelous to not be selling out venues larger than Johnny D’s. Sirsy’s songs are incomparable – even after five original albums (not including multiple live recordings, plus a holiday collection) – and both Mel and Rich have talent for days; you’ll never find another band to compare them to.
It was hard to come down from the Sirsy high when the show was over, but knowing they toured roughly 62,000 miles across the United States in 2013, you know you haven’t seen, nor heard, the last of them and that this is just a few more miles on their journey to becoming a sought-after headliner in their own right.