Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Busiest week ever

So, in between skipping class, midterms, and writing a gazillion stories this week, I've found the time to play some rock music and find unexpected praise from Bostonist.com:

Cassavettes, The Vital Might.
Before there was Bang Camaro there were Cassavettes. Everyone loved them and the local press gave them lots of tender care. We're still into them and we'll never let them go. They share the bill with power-pop trio The Vital Might.
Paradise Lounge, doors at 8pm, 18+, $8

I'll be brief, but last night we had a guest star join us at practice who will join us at the show on Friday. It's going to be so, so, so awesome.

Now, back to biz.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

More reviews? Yes, please

We were treated to a pleasant surprise upon opening this month's Performer Magazine, which features a full-page ad for our March 24 show at Great Scott with Hallelujah the Hills and Lady of Spain AS WELL AS a really awesome CD review! It's not online yet, so I can't link, but pick up a copy if you can. I'll type in the text below.

Cassavettes- It's Gonna Change

Certainly the title of Cassavettes' first full-length album could refer to any number of things, not the least of which might be the Boston music scene itself. Cassavettes' sound resides outside the cliches of Boston's mainstream rock genre, and while they might find a home amongst the folkies, their mix of country, folk, and rock doesn't really fit there, either. Perhaps it all comes from the band's Texas roots; their country leanings seem to carry a Southern authenticity that is often lacking in Northeastern country acts. But in the same way that Texas isn't really part of the South, Cassavettes isn't really country. The same could be said about any of the styles one can pick out in their sound. It's as if they've distilled the geographic qualities of Texas -- on the border, but not across it, familiar, yet close to foreign -- into a musical quality.

The album opens with the haunting "The Nadir." This track clearly demonstrates the Neil Young influence that Cassavettes readily admit -- not by mirroring Young's signature vocal style, but by focusing on the laid-back rock/country musical and the storyteller lyrical style. It is this storyteller quality, in fact, which is as much a defining quality of Cassavettes as their genre-bending. The proceeding three songs, "Debts," "On Our Own" and "Trouble From The Start," all follow this lyrical formula with great results.

"Seasons" breaks into more abstract ground lyrically, aiming more to capture a feeling than tell a story. The song also showcases a memorable a capella moment by the band. A jazzy intro sets "Lightning In A Bottle" apart from the rest of the album before the same almost-country sound that is Cassavettes' signature settles in for the majority of the song, with occasional reappearances from the jazzy guitar riff. This moment effectively demonstrates an important Cassavettes quality: their songs encompass a degree of variety that keeps things interesting, even as they show an impressive consistency. Even the rowdy "Shine A Light" still fits the mold.

If you like the first cut, then it actually isn't going to change -- all of "It's Gonna Change" will satisfy. And it is not a stretch to predict that many will like that first taste and come back for more. (self-released)
-Brian McGrath

Pretty awesome, eh? I think it's one of our best reviews yet! I especially like the part about variety but keeping things interesting. That's the goal!

Also, last night's fun has now made it into the local press. Good friend Bobby Hankinson of the Globe's Sidekick section wrote a bit about our rendition of "I'll Make Love To You" and embedded the clip. Check it here.

Finally, I just took a trip to Newbury Comics where we now have our own "Cassavettes" divider, rather than having our CD in the "C Miscellaneous" section. I know it's geeky to get excited about that, but it is the first time. That's a moment to remember!

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Try this as a lullaby

Last night, for Elyse's birthday, we had some serious karaoke action at Limelight. Mike Naughton and I paired up on this classic number to uproarious applause. By the time I arrived to the party after a journalism assignment, Scott, Chris and Dan were leaving, and Matt and Mike were nowhere to be seen. So, I felt that Tara, Fritz and I were a little out of place, but we were still in good company. After all, it was Elyse's birthday so we got down to biz -- Fritz did a stirring rendition of "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It." In short, it brought the house down.

Practice tonight should be sweet. On Thursday, we played a lot of new songs and they were feeling good. One song I had kind of given up on was a tune tentatively titled "It's Gonna Take Time" but after a decent performance by the band of it on Thursday, I'm rejuvenated. I also tried out a couple other tunes -- "Old Town," "Hands," and another I haven't finished nor come up with a name for. Mike also debuted a new tune or two, but I don't know the titles. Also, the cover is sounding good and is almost ready for a performance Friday.

Should be swizz.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Living with war

It is no secret that my biggest music idol is Neil Young. And now you can help us promote a message that both Neil and Cassavettes share! We were honored by having our tune "On Our Own" selected to be featured on his Living With War "Songs of the Times" site. Please click the song over and over, I believe it links to our Sonicbids account where you can find three downloads off our latest record. What an honor!

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not to get spacey on you

So, I'm talking to Matt right now about how to improve the songs and we're really on the same page about something. I know it sounds cheesy, but I really want the band to work on FEELING the emotion of the song, capturing its peaks and valleys. When we were recording the last record, I actually though about giving a backstory and telling the exact emotions the sound should convey. A lot of this is accidental in music, but I think it's going to take work for us to properly get a song's message across. Like I told Matt, I almost feel like we have to be in this weird unconscious state of delivery, where we're just receptacles of the music -- I know this sounds spacey and like I'm on drugs, but our job is to deliver the song and just be bystanders to it. Matt says a book called "Effortless Mastery" explains the idea of becoming a conduit for the music to emanate from and that John Lennon used to wax on the same subject.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, in terms of my playing. I tend to put together two guitar parts at a time -- or two melodies. When I record solo, it's very easy for me to make the song deliver what I want it to because I either have a sound at one point or I don't. But in a band, it's not that simple. Sometimes, I'll show Mike the hook I want on guitar, and then you have another 40 seconds to fill up with SOMETHING. And the song may not need anything there. In fact, that something may detract from the rest of the instrumentation and vocal sounds.

It's really something that I get the most concerned about between Mike and I because we're responsible for providing the melody, while Scott and Matt provide the backbone and beat. Some may say my lead parts are simple because I can't play that well in a conventional sense, which may be, but also a simple guitar part is easy for a listener to wrap their mind around. I don't understand the need for a lot of complexity in music -- people listen for what they understand, what makes sense. We're not the type of tune that needs to have huge parts -- the complexity comes in subtle chord changes and vocal breaks. So, on actual lead guitar parts and keyboard parts (or lap steel, harmonica, banjo, whatever), we need to work on giving it a melody -- not just notes or scales that fit in the song. The way I gauge it is if the part is hummable and memorable after hearing twice, it's worth putting there (if it sounds right in the song, of course). This leads to me oftentimes thinking that a verse should JUST be chords -- no noodling or superfluous notes. Otherwise, it detracts from the message and the delivery. Then, you get your repeating instrumental melody and that's that. You've got a nice-sounding song.

So, that's what I want really locked in as we move forward. It starts tonight with the big practice -- should be good.

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New CD review and a lesson the hard way

Today, I was surprised to stumble across a just-posted CandiedPop.com review of the new record. The writer is complimentary, and fair, at the same time. We didn't completely rattle his cage, and that's OK -- we know, despite our best efforts, that we can't become everyone's favorite band. So, like I said, this review is a fair analysis.

With an easy country shuffle It’s Gonna Change conjures up images of flannel shirts, jeans, and high-top sneakers with a anxious but hopeful youth as kicking about abandoned grain silos littered with broken whiskey bottles and crumpled cans of beer. It is a roots rock album that pulls a page from the Mellencamp and Young songbooks focusing on the struggle to make ends meet and that twitchy state of boredom that is marks those final steps out of the teenage years.

Again, a fair bit of text is given to analyzing "Lightning In A Bottle," a song that somehow suggested it would be a press-friendly track when we recorded it.

“Lightning In A Bottle” hints at their live sound with it stretching out past the nine minute mark and featuring several tempo shifts. The halfway point sees the band step back, stretch, and relax into a languid swing that would fit just right under the stars on a humid August night.

That last part sounds like Scott wrote it. He LOVES taking it easy. Anyhow, we appreciate the kind words, and the thorough reporting.

Last night, Mike, Dan, Chris, Fritz, Tara and I spent $60 to see Andrew WK -- my personal philosopher -- do a DJ set at Shine. First off, Shine totally blows. They had an age limit of 21+ for men, 19+ for ladies. What's with that? Anyhow, after this prevented Dan from getting through the door, we were about to head out when I happened to find myself standing right next to Mr. Wilkes-Krier. "Well, at least we got our requisite WK sighting," I said to Mike. Then, I asked him if he could help us on the age thing. Like the true nice guy he is, he did -- he tracked down the owner, and kept us posted as things developed, and finally we were let in. He thanked me for telling him about the age limit.

That's when the fun ended, because the rest of the night was spent listening to crappy techno and dance music that was NOT spun by Andrew WK. Instead, he was surprisingly aloof, and somewhat, dare I say, PARTIED OUT. He mingled a bit, but often stuck near his cameramen. Besides, he was getting mobbed by all the kids who normally attend "Paper." So, we left at 12:15 a.m. and I went home to write a paper.

Apparently, Fritz went back and WK was performing two songs on a small piano, before the kiddies got too rowdy and the bouncers broke everything up. This is what I hear through the grapevine. Either way, the night was a total waste of money and time. While I still love WK's philosophy, it was very strange to see the perpetually-happy man in an almost downtrodden state. Well, maybe not downtrodden or gloomy, but certainly not energetic. I guess everyone can't be "on" all the time. But if anyone could, I'd expect it to be him. A small part of me died last night.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

The nitty gritty

So, Matt canceled practice on Monday (when it says this was typed for some reason, I'm writing on Wednesday though). He was tired. On one hand, I understand -- we had a really long weekend (Thursday practice, Friday NYC gig and driving, Saturday gig, Sunday practice). On the other, that's life as a band. When we're on the road for real, I don't expect time to sleep. Granted, we wouldn't be working day jobs, we would just be doing the music thing (at least for the duration of the tour, unless somehow miraculously we hit it big), but I just don't consider fatigue to be a legitimate reason to cancel practice. So, we rescheduled for last night. Until Mike canceled. Because he was tired. I don't actually blame Mike or anyone for that matter -- Mike worked a really long day yesterday and apparently he didn't know we were practicing at all (so, it's probably my fault on communication if we must blame someone here). The only thing is that at this point, with us trying to make the next push, practice isn't negotiable anymore. In the past, we've canceled for too many weak reasons. But this is work, in my opinion, and you clock in sometimes even when you don't want to. I'm busy, too -- and I haven't canceled a practice since finals in December. So, Scott and I discussed what we need to do as a band in depth on Monday -- how hard we need to work to really sculpt the sound so that our music lives us to our fast-climbing public image. That's priority number one.

Like I told Scott, it's tough for me to figure out how to organize practices tenderly. I just feel like I push too much sometimes, and have a lack of compassion for others' needs or current capacities, so in the past couple nights I didn't want to push too much on anyone. If the band really needed the rest, I should understand, I guess (even though I may not allow myself that kind of attitude in my personal work). At the same time, I realize not everyone operates the way I do, sort of... and I'm trying to understand but I think we're all trying to move to the next level too. And it certainly isn't easy. Scott said that we're making some good moves and improving ourselves, but that's something that goes away when you don't keep it up.

But things have definitely changed for the better. Sometimes, especially around this time last year, I felt like I was alone in this burning desire, do-anything approach, even if Mike said it a lot. I just felt like I really had to push, but now I think everyone seems a lot more all-in, which is what it takes. After all, I may not know how to get where we want, but I have a good idea, and it starts here.

It's just weird how the mindset of a band has to be right, too. As I told Scott, there are so many accidental hits in music, but that's why bands deconstruct... they dont have the stable mindset... but those that do (Nada Surf, etc) can sometimes find redemption in that. You can recover from what may be a premature shoving into the spotlight. But if we are destined to work hard for everything we get, then we always have to be ready for phase 2 -- we have to be cohesive. Together. That's why practice is so important at this point. I don't know what lies around the corner for this band, but we have to be ready for it. It could be something big, or small, or nothing, but either way, we need to be as tight in every sense as we can be. Or as Scott says, we don't want to have a lot of ears on us if we aren't completely together. The band is united in goal, but we need to be in approach. Now, I'm not pointing fingers here at all, I'm just saying, these things come in time. This is the time to really hone in.

The reason we need to get down to biz is that now we want to get some more new tunes flowing. I honestly feel like soon we should start taking on more and more new songs and putting them into heavy rotation... by the Rumble, I'd like to play 50% new songs, 40% It's Gonna Change, and 10% Whitewash the Blues (right now, we're at 20% new, 20% Whitewash, 60% It's Gonna Change). That's easy math in a 10-song set, but I'm not being strict about that. It's just a goal, to get really ready for the next step, and the next recording project.

As I wrote in January, the band is playing TOGETHER more than ever. But we need to keep building our cohesiveness. Chemistry doesn't come overnight or even in a year and a half. It takes more and more work. To get it, that may take four practices a week, rather than the current three. I don't really know. But this is my guess. We'll figure it out, I know it.

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I knew it!

Ever since I heard that new Guster song (a band I've never had much of a taste for, nor knew well enough to voice my taste of) "Satellite," I've been going crazy swearing that they stole that keyboard part from someone else. Scott even said the keyboard part was the only good part of the song. Then, it finally hit me today! Listen to Guster's tune and then listen to Sondre Lerche's "Two Way Monologue." Right after Sondre completes the chorus, he plays a keyboard part that is EXACTLY the same, except his goes down a step -- probably because he's more creative. I'm glad I finally solved this mystery.

Today is a resting day for most everyone. Not me. While school was canceled, I'm writing a column and working on some stuff for Boston.com. Later tonight we'll do a band practice, though I'm pretty pumped about that. We had one last night and started officially working on our cover of The Who's "You Better, You Bet" for next month's Pete Townshend SXSW party. It actually sounded surprisingly better than expected. So, I'm pumped to give it another go and keep working on tunes. I'm still feeling the music. Big time.

The good news is I caught buddy Jake Brennan at the show the other night and we discussed some biz today. I'm asking him for some advice on how to move the band along in the next phase of the group. Hopefully the boyo pulls though. My guess is that he will.

OK, Yoder, back to work.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

From the Big Apple to the Ferry

Whoa. This has been a crazy weekend. We knew it was going to be in advance, but I didn't know how it'd turn out. You'll be pleased to know (or at least I hope you will) that it all turned out rosy.

Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life. That's what I thought for MOST of the day. I was tired from not sleeping the night before, still having mono (only a slight case), working early and long, and being shorthanded at work at a job I'm still learning how to do. Plus, Fritz told us that he couldn't get out of work until later either! So, we weren't planning to leave for NYC for our gig that night at 11 p.m. until roughly 6 p.m. That's bananas. Regardless, there was no avoiding it -- so I sent our buddies Hymns a message, asking them if they'd switch slots with us if we happened to not show by 11. That turned out to be a good idea. Read on and you'll see why. Since this is President's Day weekend, everyone is leaving town. Whatever town you're in, you left it this weekend. When we finally got on the road, in four separate cars for some reason, we got stuck in traffic and broken apart. I ended up pulling up to the Knitting Factory at 11:52 p.m. to play the midnight slot (thanks to Hymns for being flexible). Matt and Fritz's cars had arrived, but Mike wasn't there until slightly after midnight. So, we skipped a soundcheck and hit the rock right off. And guess what? It was totally sweet! The most fun show we've had in NYC yet! The crowd was singing at a ridiculously loud volume (which ruled) and I felt good about the sound for the most part. Plus, my old friend Victoria from Texas was there, as well as some Boston buddies who joined us on the way down or were there, like the McLaughlins. It ruled! Despite being extraordinarily tired, I chose to drive back afterward, while Matt and Fritz chose to go to the bars. My car made it back by 6:15 a.m., amazingly. I was too tired to drive and in retrospect it was a bad idea. Either way, I was determined to get back. Now you've heard my side of the story; check out Mike's incredibly verbose take here. Pictures here by Julie and Fritz.
SET LIST: Shotgun Wedding / Loose Lips / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / The Nadir / Bad Luck / Research Blvd / Debts / On The Lam / It's Gonna be Alright

So, I slept for most of the day, then returned Tara's mom's car. After eating some American chop suey, it was time to hit Nuggets in Kenmore Square for a little acoustic show to promote the big gig at Harper's that evening. Fritz picked Tara and I up and we were off. However, when I strolled into Nuggets, the staff seemed bewildered as to why I was there. Apparently, the owner forgot we were playing and thought we had moved our date. He offered us the chance to still play, but we needed a PA and I was tired, so I figured it was best to reschedule for March 24 before our Great Scott show. So, that was that, and the band went for burgers.

Then, it was time for the big show. I love the two bands we play with -- Three Day Threshold and Girls, Guns & Glory. Their fans come early, and stay late. And they're total partyhounds. It was a really fun night. When we first got there, I was so tired and downtrodden about Harper's that I didn't expect it to be very fun when we played. I was wrong. While the crowd didn't make a whole lot of noise, they were paying really close attention. I saw a lot of smiles and a lot of head nodding. Then, when we were off the stage, both Scott and I noticed more people than usual stopping us and commenting on the tunes. It was awesome. We also made a fair chunk of change in merch and from ticket sales. The show sold out early, and they let people in as people left so really there was a lot of cash coming through the door. Plus, we pulled out some folks I don't see much, like Esther and Chris Haner. It was a really cool night. I talked with Jake Brennan for a while about SXSW and we worked some stuff out. Good man. I was feeling good. I drank all the free water (I'm not drinking beer while I've got mono) and felt real good. I watched two of my favorite bands in the Northeast rock the hell out of the club, and I felt proud. Speaking of rocking the hell out of the club, Kier put his foot up on a monitor and it rolled out from under him and he went flying. If this had happened to me or Mike or Scott, the band would have stopped playing, I'm fairly sure. But Three Day kept it moving, and Kier grabbed the mic and brought it down to the floor with him and didn't miss a beat. We're not talking about a light fall, this was a hard fall with a banjo! It was UNBELIEVABLE. 100 PERCENT ROCK. Then, Girls, Guns & Glory did what they were born to do -- serenade the crowd with drink-friendly numbers, including one awesome Stones' cover of "Dead Flowers." I stayed at the club long enough to see the bouncers fight with some fans and see the cops show up after a couple slugfests broke out. It was truly an evening not to forget. Photos here by Julie and Fritz.
SET LIST: A Hard Rain / Shotgun Wedding / Loose Lips / Seasons / Trouble From The Start / The Nadir / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / On The Lam / It's Gonna Be Alright / Shine A Light

Julie recently posted some videos from our Bulfinch Yacht Club show last month. They're pretty decent quality, too. Click related links to scroll through songs.

Before I forget, here is the CD release show review in this month's Performer magazine. I know I posted about it several weeks ago, but I didn't have a link then. Now I do. But I think it may come off the web when the month is up, so here's the full text. Enjoy.

Cassavettes (CD Release) / Christians & Lions / Hats and Glasses / Mittens
Middle East Upstairs
Cambridge, MA
December 9, 2006

Boston-based Cassavettes got to pick the lineup for their gig at the Middle East Upstairs to celebrate the launch of their debut album, It’s Gonna Change. And what a thrilling, noun-infested agenda it was, with buoyant indie-pop outfit Hats & Glasses and the delightfully sweet sound of Mittens joining the ranks.

Also supporting Cassavettes’ CD release was indie-folk outfit Christians & Lions. The band offered up a knotty set of folk-tinged tunes. Lead singer Ben Potrykus performed effortlessly onstage, delivering an onslaught of fantastically catchy tunes, all lovingly tended to by the rest of the band.

While the vibe during the Christians & Lions set was dynamic but chill, the tone of the evening took a nosedive upon the arrival of Cassavettes. As the band colored the stage with full fiesta garb (including armfuls of maracas for the crowd), a gaggle of their excitable young girlie friends congregated at the front of the stage. But once frontman Glenn Yoder sunk his teeth into opening thumper “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” it was clear that, musically at least, it really was going to be alright. In retrospect, it was a shame the band opened with such a climactic song and didn’t wait until the crowd was really ready for it. Nevertheless, drummer Matt Snow successfully gave the song the kind of oomph it screamed for.

Yoder seemed vaguely uncomfortable onstage, and left most of the between-song banter to other members of the band. Bassist Scott Jones also seemed ill at ease with the task; however, he more than made up for it with his musical energy and enthusiasm. The tightness between Jones and guitarist Matt McCullagh brought warmth and a rhythmic dynamic to the band’s act, especially during the moody numbers, which were ubiquitous that night. For such a young band, Cassavettes sang with surprising maturity, weaving on-the-ball lyrics with pleasing harmonies in some truly raw numbers. That’s not to say the band is incapable of delivering concrete, anthem rockers like “Lightning in a Bottle.” Such audacious numbers showed the band’s versatility, in addition to pleasing the crowd.

What Cassavettes have is an all-round package of promise, evidenced by their enjoyable CD release show, which sold out surprisingly early. Both Cassavettes and Christians & Lions are two of Boston’s hottest indie-folk acts, and the show was certainly a huge success.

-Review and photo by Victoria Hutcheson

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's cold out there

It's about time. We got our first big snowfall of the season today, and I'm ready for it I tell you. I've been really into this Campbell's Chunky soup lately -- chicken corn chowder -- and it's like a commercial when you eat it with a big snowstorm going on outside. Pretty cool. Anyhow, I may also have mono (along with nearly everyone else), but it seems mild, and it's not slowing me down.

The majority of band work lately has been directed toward Texas and new songs. We've pretty much got a bill set for our March 11 show in Denton at Rubber Gloves, and guess what? The Sterns, also a Boston group, will be there with us! It's going to be awesome! Also, there should be two local Dallas groups -- The Tah-Dahs and The Grassfight. It promises to be a good night. I wrote the band a long e-mail the other day, outlining some thoughts about the rest of our Texas trip, including a possible Waco show which could give us some essential gas money at the end of the trip.

i am working on setting up another texas show and i realize this idea may not initially be that popular, but i am in negotiations with a bar/club in WACO (yes i know) called texas nights that's supposed to be pretty cool. the motivating factor? ...this may be our ONLY paying gig, and could really help with gas and not put us as individuals in a huge financial hole. plus, its apparently THE drunken hotspot for baylor and it's on st. paddy's day! march 17. this means we'd have to miss at least one night of sxsw (assuming we dont get a gig that day that would cancel this one out). what do you think? ... it looks like everyone WILL need to be there from march 10 (or very early 11th, though id rather not) until march 18. jimmy has agreed to take whoever needs to be taken in, as well. we have a tentative drumset, 2 definite guitar amps, and a definite bass amp. working on keys. ideas? we need to bring our own guitars (if you want and i would suggest after last time's atrocity). i think that's about it. here's a tenative schedule i'm thinking about:

march 10- fly in, eat good food, see good folks, make sure we get ALL equipment
march 11- hang, play RGRS
march 12- hang a bit in dallas, pass out cds
march 13- head out EARLY (8 a.m. or 9?) to san antonio, play show and, if we cant find anywhere to sleep, head to austin after the gig (i think its 2-3 hours?)
march 14- hopefully we can land an austin show this date, if not we pass out demo cds everywhere and check out jake's show
march 15- this is the date im eyeing for the cafe show in austin
march 16- the who show
march 17- hang in austin, start heading back mid-afternoon, play waco?, head back to dallas afterward
march 18- wake up, fly back to boston.

Also, while we're in Texas, it looks like I may be keeping a diary for Boston.com and The Globe, which would be really cool. I could focus on Boston bands that are there, so if any bands know they're going to be there, let me know. We're also on the trail of a couple more Austin shows, a cafe show and a full band show at Rudimaya.

We still need to firm up our Providence date, Portland date, maybe a New Hampshire date at Space, as well as our 2-year anniversary place. Soon, we find out about the Verge Conference and hopefully get more details on the WBCN Rumble.

I've been listening to a lot of Dylan lately, probably because in my class this morning we did a few analysis projects with "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and some other tunes. Last night, I spent a long time working on the Who's "You Better, You Bet" which I have now close-to-perfected. It's going to be an awesome cover, if that's the one the band agrees to do.

I also set up a website devoted to pre-Cassavettes group Duffer at myspace.com/ripduffer. Friend us!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A review that gets it

So, Melanie just sent me this link. The author of this story doesn't know whether he's allowed to be posting it, but he did; I don't know whether I'm supposed to, but since he did, I will. Apparently, this is a first draft of a review of Cassavettes in Indie-Intune magazine. While we're called THE Cassavettes a bit (hey, it happens), the review really nails the lyrical meaning as he examines "Debts" and "On Our Own." I'm particularly happy to see a thorough -- and correct -- examination of "On Our Own" as I feel the song is sometimes misunderstood, misinterpreted, and a bit underappreciated (hence, it has fallen out of regular rotation with us). As you may recall, I received the compliment of my playing career about that song last month from Matt's mom, who said that it affects her so greatly that she's cried at the lyrics. I felt like the song would resonate with some folks this way, who knew people in the predicament I'm outlining. This writer ties it to Alice Cooper's "eighteen" chant (no complaints here) and has some nice things to say.

Sweet harmonies round the sound off and allow it to stand in today’s alt-country scene while having crossover appeal to the pop market.
Among everything else On Our Own is a protest song, which incorporates themes from the 1960’s war time music and making it work for the state of the country today, “You're face down, fighting men without a face, without reason/Back home, the governor preaches no one has died in vain/You're 18 and on your own/18, and losing hope, yeah, you're on your own”. Here the Cassavettes make the connection between the Vietnam generation’s struggles and those being faced today in the wake of the war in Iraq. The narrator is caught between the war, his need to make a difference and the desire to return to a home that is no longer as he left it. Being lied to by the government, finding himself in the middle of a conflict he does not understand, scared as a child, yet still living as a man, supporting his family with drill pay. Again, Cooper wrote, “I’m eighteen I get confused everyday”.

I'd say most of that is relatively accurate to the greater theme of the song. It's also about poverty and being preyed on by the powers that be. I think it's explained a bit in that post last month that got deleted. Anyhow, about "Debts," I was also thrilled to see that he thought we were very cohesive in the lyrics, considering Mike wrote the verse and then I just tried to match his sentiment in the chorus. It means we're connecting!

The chorus ties the theme of Debts together beautifully. In the first chorus McCullagh and Yoder write, “My life needs arranging/ And I’m starting to feel old/ I’m not young anymore” The narrators life experience leads him away from innocence, while he is starting to feel old, he hasn’t yet left the life of a child yet. This point is re-enforced by the closing lines of the second and third chorus’ “My life needs arranging/ And I know I’m getting old/ And not moving on”. The debts incurred from a rebellious childhood still haunt the main character, removing the choice, and imprisoning him in a life he no longer wants to lead.

Anyhow, a nice review. I look forward to seeing it in print!


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

24: It's about time... a very specific amount of time

Last night, the group played what was one of the most bizarre shows of our entire playing career. It was free and at afterHOURS at Northeastern University with our buddies Cherryaxe, and really, really strange. We played OK, but my amp apparently broke, and despite a resolution to cut down on the between song banter, there were a lot of lulls. One notable lull was before bringing back "On Our Own" where we had to set up the steel, I hit myself in the mouth with my guitar and started to bleed, and then forgot to grab my harmonica, thereby stopping a song mid-song. The good news is that the set was pretty much demolished in formal terms at that point, so I don't think anyone cared. Apparently, my guitar was too loud in the audience and my vocals were too softs, which is a shame because my guitar was too soft onstage and I think I was having a particularly good singing night. The voice was feeling rock solid. There were a few flubs by all of us on the whole, but, eh, who cares? Even though the crowd was small, I still contend that playing these types of shows is good for the band right now. We may be maxing out our draw a bit, but we're gaining valuable live playing experience that will serve us well in the next few months. So, despite having a fat lip today, I regret nothing about last night. Plus, we made a pretty penny and I got to wear my new Gravedigger Blues shirt onstage! Here's what appears to be a small slideshow and poor-quality video clip of "It's Gonna Be Alright" from last night, posted by Fritz.
SET LIST: Loose Lips / On The Lam / Debts / The Devil's Arms / Shotgun Wedding / The Nadir / Seasons / On Our Own / It's Gonna Be Alright / Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Shine A Light

More news on Texas: First off, we were accepted to a South By Southwest party! However, it will have to be just for fun, because we aren't playing our own tunes. We'll be doing a Pete Townshend/The Who song -- probably "You Better, You Bet" or maybe "Squeezebox." Here's the info from the woman putting it together:
Berklee's Pete Townshend Rewind is an official SXSW party.

We'll have more detailed info posted up there next week once all the artists are confirmed, and we will have flyers, posters and the party will be included in the SXSW party envelope for registrants and program guides.

Here's a story that went up on our website to give you an idea of how it worked last year: http://www.berklee.edu/news/2006/04/sxsw06.html

The party is at Friends, 208 E. 6th St., Friday, March 16, 2:00-5:00 pm

This sounds like a lot of fun! I can't wait.

In other Texas news, Rubber Gloves in Denton is letting us put together our own bill for March 11, so we are looking for area bands to fill the place up. Any suggestions? We're game.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Back from New Orleans with a tale to tell

Though I tease you with a tale to tell, I shan't tell it now. Not enough time. But I can tell you that I'm sore in my neck and back, still slightly queasy, and never want to smell a White Russian again. That's a gist, of sorts. Instead of the tale, for the moment I'll direct you to this very blog getting some love in Worcester Magazine this week. If I'd known when writing that blog that the fine people of Worcester would see it in mass (no pun intended), I would have gone into depth a bit more. But alas, such is this crazy life.

Anyhow, I feel a bit out of the swing of things since I left for the weekend. Think of all the e-mails and MySpace messages I've missed -- oh my! So, I hit it as hard as I could last night and I'll try to do some in between work, class, band practice, and writing a column for the newspaper today. The good news is that 1) it looks like we MAY get a SXSW showcase (big thanks to Matt), though it may not be a traditional one (details to come on that as we get them) and 2) it looks like we may have another place to play in Austin that week (a smaller cafe), though we need to firm up a date. Plus, we're still waiting to hear back on another festival that corresponds with SXSW. The goal is to play as much as possible that week and right now it looks like this:
3/11 - Rubber Gloves, Denton
3/12 - Probably a day off spent lounging in Dallas, but we could play Pflugerville if the band wants or possibly Waco or San Marcos -- we'll discuss the options soon
3/13 - Red Room, San Antonio (South by San Antonio Festival)
3/14-3/17 - Austin (we're looking for 1-3 gigs, hopefully a showcase at some festival, a store performance, and something else -- two are in limbo)
3/18 - fly back to Boston, however, if we can make it back to Dallas with spare time, I'd like to do a special house party/performance to celebrate the end of this trip. Working on that, too.

It's looking good for the band to be hitting on all cylinders by the time we roll into Texas. We have so many shows in advance of that trip it's outrageous -- and HEY, one of them is a FREE one tomorrow at Northeastern University with good buds Cherryaxe. In fact, we've got so much going on in the next couple months that we're turning down shows lately -- something I really do not like to do. But we're overbooked through the end of April now and so we have to take it easy and see what comes our way in May and June. We have some really amazing gigs before then, so we want to just kind of see what crops up in early summer before booking hastily (with no offense to what's come along thus far; this is just a safety precaution). Besides, we can wait. There may be a few wisps of a plan to hit up NXNE in Toronto in June, but we have to wait and see our selection status (it's a couple months away). But, just like newspapers always think one day ahead, we're always thinking several months ahead.

A couple goals:
- In the next week, I hope to firm up a Providence gig and a Portland gig that we're playing around with in April. We may have to abort plans on both.
- In the next month, I hope to confirm our two-year anniversary date (tentatively scheduled for 7/7/07) and place. Then, we can put together a radical bill!

Anyhow, that's the good word. I'll check back in soon.

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