Alegrías del invierno
Escrito por Miguel Cuesta
El primer recital de la noche arrancó con una presentación escueta. Ante el auditorio se encontraba una joven solista acompañada de cuatro músicos: dos guitarras acústicas, un teclado, el baterista a cargo de una batería sorda y una vistosa…
Sofar Sounds Minneapolis: June 26, 2014
It was something of a special night at the beginning of summer - not only did we have a musician from out of country performing, it was also my birthday! Chance and some carefully crafted scheduling landed us all together at a familiar house, the home of Leah and Ben and their two spirited young boys, who had hosted us the previous summer during a night of sweltering heat. This time, there was air conditioning - but I would argue the performers brought quite enough heat to give the AC a run for its money. After Andrea’s usual welcome and introductions, Minneapolis locals Black Diet kicked off the evening with a hefty dose of soul.
Led by Jonathan Tolliver (JT) on vocals, Black Diet's style takes a specific turn into a mix of modern and decades-old sounds, identified by the group as “garage soul,” and something I would call enjoyably defiant. Most things about Black Diet are not conventional, rather they defy normal assumptions and expectations about the music being made by 20-somethings today. First off, these are not a bunch of kids that met in high school or college and just made their hang-out hobby into a public deal - all but one of the six met on Craigslist, and have been together just over a year. In this one year, they have already put out an album, Find Your Tambourine (April), and recorded a second, although it won’t be out for a little while yet (stay tuned). And every one of these guys - JT, Mitch, David, Garrison, and Sean (sadly, I didn’t get to meet Mugsy) - are both charismatic and multi-talented, with many of them in several other local bands as well.
Although the start to their rare acoustic setup was a little rough, the connection they share is so natural and tight, they immediately slid into sync and you could never guess they had all met online. Beginning with “State Line,” a song about March in Minneapolis, I was struck by how unique but yet consistent Tolliver’s voice really is: unmistakably stylistic, there is no denying he is a marker for the band’s sound. And while to me it warbles in a certain way that gets under my skin, he is on pitch to a T, and proud of his personal style, putting it unabashedly on display. I couldn’t help but respect him more for it. Then as complimentary vocalist Mugsy wasn’t present, David on drums filled in with some backup vocals, contributing a rich bass and Sean on keys hitting solid high notes on falsetto throughout the set.
Their blues continued with “Brother of Mine,” about Tolliver’s brother, his emotional rock. The strength of this band only increases with a listen to the substance, the lyrics, of their songs. While there is enough rhythmic “umph” to keep you feeling the beat, the concepts delve deep into the darker parts of life as well as celebrating the brighter ones. In “Fever,” a lover’s quarrel, these guys got sassy, jazzy, and tossed in some humor. I’m itching to hear this one with a plugged-in setup. In it, Tolliver asks the essential question that one should be able to answer upon listening to their tunes live, “Can you give it on up?”
Surprisingly, our evening was their first house show, at least in the style of a Sofar Sounds gig. They’ve been named winner of Are You Local? 2014 of Vita.mn and nominated for Best New Bands 2014 of City Pages and continue to take Minneapolis and the Midwest by storm. These kids recently played 80/35 in Iowa, the Basilica Block Party and Bastille Day celebrations in Minneapolis, and are playing a full schedule of shows this summer, followed by opening for Lee Fields at The Cedar in September - find the full list here. Also keep track of their shenanigans on Facebook and via that little blue bird.
Up next was Reina del Cid, who was joined by the talented Toni Lindgren for the night. Her voice seems young, light and elegant, and as she herself commented, has “one of the world’s quietest singing voices.” But it struck me as kind of perfect, considering the sound and themes of the music she composes. She sings of natural phenomena (“Death Cap”), the simple and yet complex intricacies of life, and navigating relationships. Toni added a spectacular dimension to each song, moving her pick so fast at times I couldn’t follow. Having previously played in a bluegrass band, her background brought a lively element to Reina’s soulful one. These two recently went on a living room tour around the country, just the two of them in front of crowds like ours, making their set effortless and quite enjoyable.
My favorite tune of hers was “Emily,” which she explained was one of the first songs she let anyone else listen to, this person being her grandma. Knowing she wouldn’t be critical of the recording, Reina allowed her grandma to listen to her demos - and woke up the next morning to her grandma waltzing in the kitchen to this song. It’s a recognizable story; a deliberation of how to (or not to) end a relationship when you end up “walking alone by his side.” The two ladies ended with a peppy tune, Toni on harmonica, and both of them just plain having fun.
This July Reina del Cid is recording for another album, which I believe will include orchestration. She’s had a residency at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown Saint Paul for the last year and a half, and is continuing for the time being. Check out the current album here.
Australian special guest Dru Chen, hailing from Melbourne, closed out our evening with a pop set to rival Jason Mraz’s best hits. He’s become a well-known name down under just in the last year, and was in the states this month to record his next single. Although early in the set Dru admitted, “I view songwriting as a cathartic experience” because “it gets something out there,” most of his tunes are upbeat, positive, appreciative of someone else or a feeling that a person has given him.
In “Higher,” he started out soft and gentle, but went on to hit the highest notes with such precision and strength, followed by a rough and gravelly blues-like element at times, that all my assumptions were blown out of the water. Dru can fill a space with such resonance it feels like more than acoustic, and he can play up the silence to make you feel like the only person in the room. His next single, “You Got It Babe,” was prime example of this flexibility. During his set, he even asked the audience to join in and sing along - proving that performing is not about him, but about the shared experience between performer and listener.
Dru was also joined in a duet by Reina del Cid to cover Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey” - a first time occurrence at Sofar Minneapolis, and I hope we end up with more of these spontaneous collaborations! Reina first covered the song and posted it online, and Dru instigated the duet because he was impressed with Reina’s cover and he finds it “the most romantic song.” The two of them made for an odd couple up front, Dru the showman and Reina more understated, but their voices matched up in a lovely back-and-forth performance, only rehearsed earlier in the evening before the show.
Dru ended with his first single, “Turnaround,” which was possibly the most impressive of all, fully displaying why he considers himself a mix of pop, soul, and funk. Before doing so though, he almost sang me happy birthday - which I quickly ended before things got out of hand! Turns out we also had another birthday in the audience, which made the evening even more hilariously unique. I’ve been with Sofar Minnepolis for over a year and half now, and each show truly is its own - this one being no different, or more accurately: completely different, in the best way.
What a night. On Dru’s suggestion, we caught this snapshot at the very end! From left to right, front to back: Andrea Bussey (Sofar), Dru Chen, Kelsey Simpkins (Sofar), Xander Grzywinski (Sofar), Reina del Cid, Joseph Finstrom (Sofar), Sean Schultz and Jonathan Tolliver (Black Diet).
Words by Kelsey Simpkins
Photos by Joel Menk and Xander Grzywinski and Dru Chen
Sofar Sounds/19 May 2014
Words by: Chad Davenport
Photography by: Kelsey Foster
So when I was asked to write about the next Sofar show I immediately said yes. These shows give the guests a great opportunity to listen to every note, due to the fact that no one talks during the sets. I was delighted to find out upon arriving at the home of Vince and Susan Rowe that the lineup would be Seryn (Denton), Leoncarlo Canlas (Denton), Jessie Frye (Denton) and Johnny and Molly from Communist Daughter (St Paul). First off, the house was amazing. It was obvious that the hosts love music and not just because they were hosting, but by the stage that was built in their backyard. Come to find out that they host some good shindigs every so often. Back to the inside of the house, the bands would be playing in a room on the first floor of the house that was built with acoustics in mind. It plays home to a Baby Grand piano on a normal basis, but this day had been relocated to make room for the Sofar lineup.
Up first was Seryn. If you have never seen Seryn, do yourself a favor and do so the first chance you get. The music is pretty breathtaking by itself but when you add the visual of those passionate faces you get something really special, a six piece that plays a plethora of instruments and harmonizes like nobodies business. In a follow up interview with Nathan Allen I found out that this was their third Dallas Sofar and have done one in New York as well. When asked about performing in the intimate settings, he said, “We love the intimate settings. There is something special about hearing people sing straight to your ears, without the fuss of mic’s and PA systems.” The band is about to hit the road for a month including the bands first international show in Canada. Interestingly enough on July 4th! Quirky road trip stuff you ask? “We love listening to Die Antwoord before and after sound checks while playing catch (baseball)”. “We also do a lot of jumping jacks and push ups at the gas stations to keep the body loose.” The bands second record will hopefully be released sometime this year. Look for it. As far as the influence Sofar is having on the community, Allen says, “It’s extremely positive and sort of weaves people together. We have connected and met lots of other musicians we would have never gotten to play with or hang out with and all the hosts and organizers are just wonderful.” Check out their website at www.serynsound.com. You can also find them on facebook and Twitter.
Up next was Leoncarlo, a violinist from Denton who was rolling solo. My curiosity kept increasing as he was setting up. Turns out that he was setting up two looping stations. He introduced himself, told us a bit about himself and said that he would be dedicating the performance to his late Grandmother by the name of Leonela. He picked up his violin, squatted down and hit a button. He then plucked the violin a few times, capturing different sounds each time. Hit the button again and strew his bow across the strings. Every sound was unique but as they started looping they all came together in a glorious fashion. He did this until he was happy with what he had created and then the show began. The sound of the looping music sounded like he had created his own little background orchestra. It was the perfect accompaniment for the music this classically trained violinist was delivering. He played three songs, each of which was better than the last. He took a brief pause to talk about a kick starter he was going to get going and then finished up his set with “Postcard No.3” and lastly “Colossus”. In a phone interview afterwards I found out that he is originally from Virginia but relocated to Denton for School at UNT. He obviously paid close attention in class because this guy is the real deal. He told me that he always starts with an idea in his head when it comes to performances like this, but as he starts making the music it kind of takes on a life of it own and there ends up being quite a bit of improvisation. He also said that this show was inspired by Dillon Thomas’ poem “Death shall have no Dominion”. Well I have to tell you, the more I talked to this guy the more I was impressed, he is a brilliant musician, as well as just a great guy with a big heart and big dreams. He said “I would love to see my music in video games or documentaries. I just want to make big, vast, music”. You’re well on your way and I’m sure your Grandmother is looking down with pride. Visit www.leoncarlo.com to keep up
When Jessie Frye stepped up she was dressed casually and she brought along her guitar player Jordan Martin. She talked with a little sarcasm and mentioned that she was excited because they never do acoustic sets so this was something new. She played four songs including “Like a Light”, “White Heat”, “Fortune Teller” and “Brave the Night”. She explained a few, taking advantage of the attentive crowd asking, “Do you mind if I tell you a story?” Jokingly saying at shows at loud bars, “nobody cares!” Well this crowd was much more conscientious and it was apparent by the crowd’s monstrous roar after she was finished with each song. I haven’t seen her perform with a full band, but a whole lot of sound came from this classically trained pianist. She was very animated, with booming vocals and the acoustics were perfect for the lead singer whose foursome won the Edge’s “Battle of the bands” which gave them a spot at this years Edge Fest, opening for Beck and The Avett Brothers, just to name a few. With nothing but an acoustic guitar behind her, you could really the hauntingly beautiful singing style she has. They just released their first full length album “Obsidian” early this year and it has obviously been well received. In a phone conversation she told me a little bit about the Battle of the bands and gave me a brief Greek Mythology lesson. Obsidian is a volcanic glass stone created when lava cools and Obsidian is also a God in Greek mythology. Jessie said, “When I was looking for an album name, Obsidian seemed perfect because it was something that had dark textures and was bold and sexy”. She said that the year has been quite busy so they were taking June off, but that you can catch them at Club DaDa opening for Kitten in July. Curious to see the full band, I’ll be there for sure. Check out www.jessiefrye.com for more.
Last up was a married couple from St Paul named Johnny and Molly. They are two of the 6 members of a band called Communist Daughter. When the came up they both seemed a bit shy, but cracked a few jokes and got into the music. The songs sounded great. Short strums of his guitar and her singing backup vocals to his lyrics that are definitely peppered with darkness. Johnny’s battles with drugs and alcohol are behind him but you can still hear traces of it in his music. Johnny mentioned his being sober for a while, which his wife quickly corrected him very proudly with “3 Years”, which received applause just as loud as at the end of the songs. We talked via email and when asked if he had any advice for anyone struggling with addiction or going through a rough spot he said “The one thing I always wanted to hear, and the one thing that is completely true, is that getting sober is really the best thing to do in your life, and the people around me all say the same thing whether they are 18 or 88. I was always concerned that I wouldn’t be happy, or I’d miss out on life as I knew it, or I’d lose my personality or passion if I wasn’t drinking and doing drugs. Completely not true. It’s a curse, and all I have to do to break the curse is just not do any drugs or drink anything today. Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow.” They have been a part of Sofar three times in Minneapolis, Chicago and now Dallas. Also Oklahoma City and Las Vegas have called. He said of Sofar “I dig it; it’s a great way to get into a town and immediately connect with people in that town that love music.” When it’s that intimate of a show it just boils it all down to the song and the performer, it works well for us. No bells and whistles…” When asked about future Communist Daughter stuff he said a new EP would be out this fall. He and Molly have plans to come back to Dallas in September. Keep your eyes peeled for location and date. Before they played their last song he said “I wish we were going to go out on a high note but we are going to go out on a sad lonely note”. Ironically his sad and lonely notes sure did seem to make the whole room pretty happy. Find out more at www.comdot.com.
For more about the Sofar scene in your area please visit http://www.sofarsounds.com
Sofar Sounds NYC: June 17th 2014
It was an unusually warm night when fans descended on Williamsburg for the latest Sofar Sounds New York event. The large warehouse contained an intimate and unique Brooklyn apartment, and despite the rather warm temperatures, the crowd was buzzing in anticipation as the night began.
Cat Martino of Stranger Cat kicked off the evening, treating the crowd to a mixture of powerful vocals, simple melodies and electronic beats. Donning her silver sequin cape, Stranger Cat’s ethereal music captivated the audience with lush soaring vocals and distant synths as they closed their set with the track “Wilderness”.
Next up was Isadora, Brooklyn based quintet comprised of Aaron Mendelsohn (vocals, guitar), Ian Mellencamp (bass, vocals), Jesse Bilotta (drums), Nick Burleigh (guitar, violin) and Joshua Rouah (keyboards, vocals). It was clear from the moment the band started playing that everyone was into the atmospheric and at times, psychedelic rock sound. Aaron, Ian and Joshua also brought a great mix of harmonies to several tracks including “Barcelona,” and their closing track “Grass,” which had a particularly trippy 60’s vibe.
Following Isadora, the Sofar crowd was treated to Astral Bird, who after opening their set with some modern jazz was joined by rapper Nameless Vagrant for “Loosen Up.” The mix of hip hop beats, Nameless’ sick flow, and soft jazz was pure magic. The band followed up with some more jazz sounds, soft vocals and an almost Californian breezy vibe that chilled everyone out on the balmy summer night.
Closing out the evening, was Great Caesar, also hailing from Brooklyn with John-Michael Parker, (vocals, guitar, piano, songwriting) Stephen Chen (sax), Adam Glaser (bass), Tom Sikes (trumpet) and Mike Farrell (guitar). The band exploded onto the stage with a raucous burst of music and sound. Thier high energy was infectious and at one point the band was literally jumping up and down. They brought the house down and closed the night with the motivational and meaningful song “Don’t Ask Me Why.” The song, almost story like starts slow and steady and ends with the entire band singing to a march like beat.
The Sofar crowd was truly treated to a night of eclectic sounds and major talent.
Words by Melanie Zachariades
Photos by Beka Venezia
Sofar Sounds Sydney: 28th June 2014
Words by Samantha Jonscher @Samjonscher
Photography by Laura Arango www.behance.net/laullama
The shop at the corner of King and Wilson Streets in Newtown has been many things over the years. It was once a pawn shop, in the more recent past home to Mud Mee clothing and at the moment it’s the Inner West home of The Academy Brand. Last Saturday though, the store’s upstairs twin, a private apartment, was the venue for the June edition of Sofar Sounds Sydney. Accessed via a winding staircase around the back, the funny triangular shaped space with views of a bustling Newtown Saturday night made for a cosy evening.
The apartment’s tenants had gone to the trouble of putting up bunting and fairy lights for the occasion and the sounds of traffic occasionally filtered in through an open window. Guests sat on comfy sofas that had been pushed to the back of the room and on the polished wood floorboards, competing over cushions that had been set out. With hunched backs and crossed legs, all eyes were on Julia Jacklin and her vintage cream Fender when she started her set.
Jacklin’s voice is warm and creamy and her intimate stories of love and biography were right at home in the tiny room, backlit by fairy lights. Her music is enthralling; it seems to come from a place of such sincerity that it lulls those listening into thinking that they are alone in the room with her. Her hushed lyrics weave in and out of contemplative, roots guitar. During her set she gazed intently at the back of the room, singing for herself as much as her audience. After the show Jacklin would confess that she wasn’t sure that people were enjoying the music. I can’t speak for everyone in the room, but “transfixed” is not usually a very emotive facial expression.
During the break, two synths and a Macbook emerged from the bedroom turned green room for Sun Comes Out Twice As Bright, a Sydney based pair of self-confessed lovers of 80’s pop; as singer Jules pointed out, “we like the 80’s, have you seen our jackets?” Their music is bright, consciously retro and cosmic. Claude’s training as an organist really shows, she pulled out some fairly complex rhythms during their set. Moving through their repertoire, the girls covered Death Cab for Cutie’s “Soul Meets Body”. Their rendition was much darker than the original; injecting a spacey, retro-futurist feel that gave the song new meaning and sat nicely with the lyrics.
After joining Sun Comes Out Twice As Bright for some head bopping, Winterbourne took the stage. They started their set with the catch-all apology that they usually perform as buskers for giant, but impatient crowds (if you ever shop in Pitt Street mall chances are you have seen them set up outside of Myer). Their music is harmony-driven folk and the pair of them are charismatic; their time as buskers has taught them how to get close to their audiences. After four songs, including a stripped-back, raw and mournful cover of The National’s “England”, they were told there was still time if they wanted to keep going. The boys pulled out a few more and finished the night on what they called a “wiggling” song that brought everyone one on that living room floor a little bit closer together, physically at least.
When the boys finished their set, everyone hopped up and stretched their legs. The guests said their goodbyes and their thank yous to the hosts and their entertainment, said goodbye to the powder-blue walls, fairy lights and warmth of the King Street apartment, and headed out into chaotic Saturday night Newtown.