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My Final Thoughts – The Head and the Heart

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Photo courtesy of Eugene Daily News


All the way back in May, just a couple months into “The 12” project, I was perusing through YouTube to dig up some videos for a Tour Report for The Head and the Heart.  I came across a performance of “Lost in My Mind” that completely changed my perception of what this band was able to achieve.  First comes a couple handclaps from the crowd, then a few folks up front singing along as Russell began the first verse.  By the first chorus, the crowd was belting along with the band ecstatically.  I’ve heard “Lost in My Mind” probably a hundred times in the last month, but this particular moment still gives me goose bumps as I’m writing today.  What I’m sure started as a simple folk-pop song suddenly turned into an anthem for the burgeoning folk-rock scene so prominent in 2011.  Billboard had it right when they put The Head and the Heart on their cover this summer.  This band isn’t just the next addition to compliment the indie folk scene; they are a musical force unlike any act that has come into the national spotlight this year.

The Head and the Heart’s fans absolutely adore “their” band.  While following them for the last six months, I’m reminded of another band that meant so much to me growing up.  When I was about to enter high school around 1994, I was given a cassette of a relatively unknown group called Dave Matthews Band that would turn into my first musical obsession over the following half-decade.  Within months, the band was graduating from clubs to amphitheaters based not just on their live sound, which at the time was revelatory to me, but due to their fervent fanbase.  Dave Matthews Band built a community through an open recording policy that allowed fans to trade tapes of live concerts across the country.  It’s an antiquated approach looking back from 2011, but at the time they were blazing a new trail given they only had one self-released album at the time.  The rest of their story is pretty well known at this point as Dave Matthews Band continues to be one of the top touring acts in music as they enter their twentieth year.  I’m not seeing multiple shows across the Northeast like I once had, but they memory and meaning that band means to me helped shape a passion in me for music that at the time I didn’t even know existed.

So what does this all have to do with The Head and the Heart?  From Facebook and Twitter updates to a fan site completely dedicated to the band, there seems to be the same relative buzz surrounding the band as I felt with the Dave Matthews Band back in the early Nineties.  Of all the band’s we covered, I believe the most in The Head and the Heart’s longevity.  The fans that have been shouting the band’s name from virtual mountaintops are the kind of folks that will dedicate their all into the young band.  They aren’t going to check out a show once in a while standing by the back of the bar.  They’ll be right up front, feeling part of something rather than just being a casual observer.  This level of support cannot be taken lightly, a fact that The Head and the Heart seem to completely understand.  Of all the bands we covered, they easily pushed out our stories more than any other.  Through little notes of thanks, their support of my project kept me not only believing in them, but believing in myself.  The Head and the Heart have moved me not only through their music, but also through how much they care about really making an impact to every fan at every show.  You want to not only cheer with them, you want to cheer for them.

My story with The Head and the Heart has been mirrored by fans across the country.  They have become a musical ambassador for Seattle while selling out shows on the other side of the country.  They’ve even gained some significant traction in Europe; London’s Rough Trade Records recently named their self-titled LP as one of their top selling records of the year.  The Head and the Heart are a true musical success story in 2011 and I would be very surprised if their rise doesn’t continue beyond their wildest expectations.  The band has some talented songwriters, but their true power comes when they hit the stage.  Whether it’s Josiah Johnson dancing like he’s seeing his favorite band or Charity Thielen spine-tingling vocal run on “River and Roads”, The Head and the Heart delivers moments unlike any band on the scene right now.  If this is just an early chapter, the future is truly limitless.  I’m so thankful to be a small part of their story this year.  In a music world where bands can come in and out of the spotlight in a heartbeat, The Head and the Heart are sealing their foundation to carry them through for years and years.


As a final aside, fans of the Head and the Heart that have been digging my coverage need not worry that we’re closing up shop on “The 12” (We’ll be transitioning completely to SXSW coverage tomorrow).  The band’s dedicated fan community, Lost in My Mind, has evolved into a great place for up-to-date information and insight on the band.  Keep up the great work Daniel!  

My Final Thoughts – James Vincent McMorrow

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Photo courtesy of Julie Edwards


After listening to band after band during last year’s SXSW project, it’s easy to get dissuaded when everything starts to sound a little bit the same.  The music that interests me normally pushes the limits of the genre or is trying to combine different sounds to make something new.  Every once in a while though, something would come along that would just plain move me.  James Vincent McMorrow’s music did just that.  I got through one track, already in full goose bump mode, and continued on until I finished the whole of his album.  At the time, it was only released in Ireland and bits of the UK, but I knew this would be an artist that would be on the tip of more than a few tongues throughout 2011.  I think I called this one spot on.

McMorrow has had a really strong six months, building fans through constant touring both in a headlining fashion and on the festival circuit this summer.  He’s moved on from solo gigs to full-band performances and has graduated from small rooms to some pretty decent sized rooms that he can fill purely from his own billing.  He’s set his sights highest throughout Europe where he has had the opportunity to play some choice venues including Dublin’s Olympia and London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (which featured support from fellow “12” artist The Civil Wars).  In addition to all of his proper live gigs, McMorrow performed countless radio and video sessions ranging in location from castle hallways to Mediterranean beaches.  If there’s one strong admiration for James Vincent McMorrow that I take away from this project, it’s his work ethic.  He rarely takes time off and when he does it seems he gets right back to recording demos preparing for a sophomore release.  This level of push is so important in the current music climate.  McMorrow is succeeding on the quality of his music, but it doesn’t hurt that he’s done everything he can to get his sound out to as many ears as possible.

Interestingly, much of his attention has come from some unexpected projects.  McMorrow has always shown a keen choice for cover songs, none that caught on more than his version of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love”.  Originally recorded and released pretty quietly as part of a benefit compilation for Silver Lining.  Months later, the track caught steam through the blogosphere eventually netting top billing on The Hype Machine’s daily charts.  His reinvention of the classic Eighties track put Winwood’s song in a whole new light and updated for a brand new listener base.  McMorrow’s covers of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Adele’s “Someone Like You” have also proved to be popular at different times throughout the last half-year.  These pieces hold up well on their own, but more importantly they draw listeners in to McMorrow’s original material.  The same can be said for other left-field releases like Adventure Club’s “We Don’t Eat” Remix (spun more than 250,000 times on Soundcloud) or Andrew Clancy’s “A Year in New York” piece set to “We Don’t Eat” (an astonishing 400,000 views in the last twenty days!). 

None of these successful covers or projects would have worked if it weren’t for McMorrow’s talent both in performance and songwriting.  Though his music comes from a different place, McMorrow’s story and heart-wrenching falsetto can draw favorable comparison to a break-out artist of a couple years back: Bon Iver.  As much as it must be hard to constantly be compared to another artist, Justin Vernon has set a great example of what can be done by evolving something that is so decidedly stark in new and beautiful directions.  Of all the “12” artists, I have probably listened to Early in the Morning more than any other album.  There is so much entwined beauty and harmony throughout that it creates one of those full listening experiences so rarely found from a debut artist.  Since it is so great on its own, it gives me even more reason to believe that McMorrow will chart some different directions in the future.  His voice and songwriting needs to be heard more, so I’ll continue to shout it from virtual rooftops, but I don’t think he’ll really need my help.  Great music should and will be celebrated, so McMorrow has nothing to worry about if he continues to trust his musical instincts towards the sublime.  Sometimes it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.

My Final Thoughts – David Wax Museum

Photo courtesy of Magazine 33


For David Wax Museum, 2011 was a payoff year.  After years of endless touring in traditional and unique venues, the band has graduated to a new level of fans and followers.  Their first big break occurred at last year’s Newport Folk Festival, but in the last six months they returned for a main stage appearance at Newport, sold out Washington DC’s 9:30 Club and found themselves being featured on PBS and Time Magazine.  It was a big year and David Wax Museum capitalized by touring full out rarely with even a week off.  This relentless push has yielded some big results.  We captured Youtube views on “The 12” around SXSW to informally track the rise in interest of our bands.  Based on yesterday’s data, David Wax Museum gained the highest percent gain on views with 373% in six months, making the case that they had a relatively bigger 2011 than any of “The 12”.  David Wax Museum are still a small fish in a big pond, but the word has really begun to spread.

The year started with the release of Everything Is Saved, a marked departure for the band that was previously so tied to their Mexican and American folk roots.  Don’t get me wrong; their calling card has everything to do with combining the traditional into a frantic concert setting.  The new LP presents a better-rounded picture of who David Wax Museum is with as much focus on the quiet as the bar-stomping fare.  It’s this depth that really speaks to David Wax Museum’s future.  Songwriting is such a crucial piece to the live performance puzzle and the band has shown a real effort to push the boundaries folk music can so easily create.  I know so many reviews and stories focus on the traditional aspect of their sound, but I think what the band does with that base is what really makes it special.  I’m hoping they take an even more experimental approach with the next record to further bridge the contemporary and traditional planes of the music they present.

That entirely aside, the band’s vast majority of new fans have come off the strength of their live show.  There is nothing like a David Wax Museum concert and that’s something that can be said about so few bands.  From the stage, the band is definitely fire.  Expanded permanently to a four-piece, David Wax Museum has become a new beast on the live circuit.  The real magic happens though when they step away from the mics.  Every show, be it a festival gig, headlining concert or even a corporate event, the band will roam through the audience, find nooks on balconies or stand on top of tables in the middle of the bar.  The level of intimacy increases dramatically when the audience feels one with the band.  It seems like a gimmick on paper, but it truly breaks down the performer-audience barrier into a whole new experience.  I first fell for the band at SXSW as I looked up to see Suz fiddling and stomping away on a table I had a beer sitting on moments before.  So few bands can create these sort of magical moments, let alone night after night.  It turns a show into an experience, which is a true gift in the live music community.  I hope this special ability translates into a long and prosperous career for the budding band.  My coverage may end this week, but I’ll surely be following David Wax Museum long into the future as they move towards bigger and better things.     

My Final Thoughts – Empress Hotel

For a few months this summer, I was a little worried about Empress Hotel.  I mostly followed “The 12” through a combination of researching Facebook, Twitter, Google Alerts and videos.  There was very little coming from the Empress Hotel camp besides mentions of Micah McKee playing out with his solo effort Little Maker.  The band had spent some time in the studio preparing their full-length, but with no touring it was hard to even determine the status of Empress Hotel.  I was a little bummed out, as Empress Hotel was one of my favorite discoveries through this year’s SXSW project.  The five songs on their debut EP displayed that Empress Hotel already has a sound all its own.  Mixing in indie rock, African polyrhythms and R&B melodies, the songs come together perfectly to create something new and exciting.  I consider myself a really big fan, but coverage was so slim that I wasn’t sure if their next batch of songs would even see a proper release.

That all changed in early September.  Immediately after a duo of shows in Atlanta and Raleigh with a revamped lineup, Empress Hotel announced a month-long cross-country tour in support of Van Hunt.  Aided by some news stories from local outlets and band champion Paste Magazine, it seemed like Empress Hotel was completely back in the ring and primed for a bright future.  I was able to sit down with the band as they passed through Dallas and I could truly sense the excitement for the road ahead.  The band explained how 2011 was meant as a slow build, not trying to be a “flash in the pan” indie rock band that is so prevalent in our Internet-driven music culture.  Empress Hotel has a plan for their songs to stand up against the test of time.  They want to make music that will be around for years and years.  Judging from the new songs that were played in Dallas that night, Empress Hotel has a real chance to fit into those self-imagined shoes.

After six months of coverage, Empress Hotel feels like the band I personally want to keep spreading the word on since they still fly pretty low under the radar.  2012 is set up to be a real opportunity for the band as their LP is set to come out in the early spring and they already have their sights set on a follow-up possibly by the end of the year.  Empress Hotel may have been quiet throughout our “12” coverage, but they are full of ambition, creativity and drive.  If you haven’t heard these guys yet, do yourself and take a good listen.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll love what you hear. 

My Final Thoughts – Yuck

Photo coutesy of Café Maroon


Yuck made it in to “The 12” for two reasons that were unique to the fuzzed out alternative rockers.  First, they were the most hyped new act going into SXSW according to The Hype Machine.  They were also the only band of “The 12” that I wasn’t really turned onto during last year’s SXSW project.  They drew a rating of a “4” simply described as “fuzzy” with a “post rock influence”.  After six months of coverage, I can report that I’ve been proven wrong.  I wonder if I just got caught up in the heavy drone of “Rubber” through my initial listen, which has ironically turned into my favorite song from Yuck.  They seem to be another band that doesn’t quite realize how good they are.  Yuck come across as really young in interviews, which I guess is acceptable, given all of the band members are only in their early twenties.  Their evasive nature melds well with their music.  There is an equal focus on melody and distortion.  This presents a certain level of mystery to Yuck’s sound, which I think is the primary factor why they’ve convinced so many listeners that they are the real deal this year.

Yuck primarily built their fanbase this year through constant touring.  Mainly concentrated in Europe, the band signed on to over twenty festivals throughout the summer.  This allowed them to reach as many ears as possible, which had a considerable impact when they followed up with headlining shows this fall.  Yuck also made a run Stateside, playing a few tours over the course of the year mostly headlining small to medium sized clubs in major US markets.  Compared to the other artist in “The 12”, Yuck had more mixed reviews than the rest.  So came out ecstatic, while others were underwhelmed.  It’s all led me to believe that Yuck is appreciated by two types of listeners.  The first is someone who is already a fan of that 90’s alternative sound and is looking for an update.  Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth devotees seem to be drawn in more than most and immediately accept Yuck’s sound and delivery as one of comfort.  I fall into a different category.

Yuck is a band that I appreciated the more I listened to them.  Their catchy hooks are the bait and the payoff comes with a subtle touch.  Their distorted layering has a great deal of warmth even though it’s aiming for an uncomfortable state at times.  Above all, Yuck deserves acclaim for their natural touch in terms of songwriting.  Once the B-Side “Milkshake” was released, I finally got where they are going with this.  It was catchy and fun, yet deeper at its heart.  Whereas I look for further experimentation for most bands I follow, I could see Yuck pulling it in even more and coming up with a stronger and fuller sound as they approach their sophomore era.  If the songs hold up as well as the tunes from their self-titled LP, Yuck could continue to propel.  The best sign of success will be when they stop being referred to as a throwback and accepted as a sound in and of itself.  Until then, Yuck will continue to hit the road with dates scheduled well into 2012 already. 

My Final Thoughts – Sarah Jaffe

Photo courtesy of The Ruckus


I moved to the Denton, Texas area about four years ago and was quickly introduced to the local music scene that thrived in Dallas and Fort Worth’s little neighbor to the north.  Fueled by two universities with a strong musical reputation, Denton is known for mint musicianship combined with genre-pushing experimentation.  Immediately upon infiltrating the local music scene, I kept hearing Sarah Jaffe’s name pop up in conversation.  My first time catching her show a couple years ago had me pretty floored both by her engaging songwriting and a fanbase that was singing along to every tune off her debut EP.  During that show, she was primarily previewing songs from Suburban Nature, a disc that gained the upmost acclaim upon its 2011 release especially in the DFW area.

By the time SXSW rolled around last year, I had added a couple more Jaffe gigs to my show-going resume and primarily caught her showcase at the Paste Party to share her sound with my show-going buddy.  I was also intrigued by some surprising new songs Jaffe tried out at Denton’s 35 Conferette a week before.  This year marked a pretty dramatic change in direction for Jaffe.  Gone were the minimalist acoustic tones that defined Suburban Nature, being markedly replaced by both light and heavy electronic instrumentation.  Jaffe was in the midst of evolving as an artist around SXSW, so she was an easy pick to recruit for our “12” project.  I was also a little biased due to local coverage, as Jaffe has risen from a pretty big deal to a marquee act in Denton area, but I’ve been especially impressed how she’s gained a foothold in the national sphere as well. 

The build up to The Way Sound Leaves a Room, an EP meant as bridge between Suburban Nature and her sophomore release due next year, has yielded some highlight coverage throughout the online community.  Anchored by covers of Drake & The-Dream and Cold War Kids, Jaffe has joined in with a talented crew of indie-based female singer-songwriters pushing the limits of what was once a genre reserved for more straight-ahead fare.  I would best describe 2011 as a transition year for Jaffe.  She got some good touring in both with supporting tours with Old 97s and Centro-matic as well as headlining gigs in the DFW area, but most of her time was spent preparing for her next album and going through everyday life.  She’s actually turned the promotional machine down a couple notches, going for more of a grassroots approach of gaining a fanbase.  I’m hoping next year provides more extensive national touring from Jaffe given how much she has been able to grow locally throughout repeated live appearances.

It’s been great following Jaffe’s musical maturation throughout the last six months, but I have a feeling 2012 will be her breakout year.  Her songwriting has improved drastically from an already impressive base.  The album she has been recording with John Congleton in recent months is setting up to be a real knockout based on the EP and live previews.  I’m sure I’ll continue to see Jaffe more than any other of “The 12” artists; it’s hard to say “no” anytime she’s within an hour drive, which happens every couple of months.  From interviews, I get the impression that Jaffe is just starting to realize how good she really is.  That confidence should translate next year as she pushes herself further into the music community based on the strength of her songwriting and emotionally moving delivery.

My Final Thoughts – The Naked and Famous

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Photo courtesy of NME


Late last year, I first clicked on a Youtube link for “Punching in a Dream” while working down my list of SXSW bands.  Frankly, most bands I ran through fell somewhere between boring and predictable, but within seconds of listening to The Naked and Famous I knew I was on to something.  I immediately started spreading the word amongst my music friends all of whom were digging what they heard.  Fast-forward nine months.  I go online to purchase tickets to their headlining show at Dallas’ Granada Theater only to see “sold out” in big red letters over the band’s picture.  Even more perplexing, the show was over a month out at the time.

Somewhere in the last couple of months, The Naked and Famous are legitimately a mainstream band Stateside.  From a noon show in Waterloo Records’ parking lot during SXSW, the band has truly come a long way since I started my coverage.  The wave crested even earlier in Europe.  Videos from major festivals throughout the continent show audiences ecstatically clapping and bouncing along as the downbeat in “Young Blood” first kicks in.  In a half year full of revelatory moments, this was the point when I saw The Naked and Famous turn a corner into a international headlining act.

The Naked and Famous are certainly known best for “Young Blood”, which has increasingly gained spins on mainstream radio both domestically and abroad.  No doubt, it’s a hell of a song.  Equally electronic dance and driving rock, it even has an interesting break to cool off for a couple of seconds before they explode back into the wordless chorus.  On the other hand, the real power in The Naked and Famous lies in their deeper cuts, layered in experimental tones and melodies.  From the ambient drone that anchors “The Sun” to the frantic builds in “A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing”, the band has shown a true penchant for diversity that speaks really well for the future.  Frontman Thom Powers recently expressed his excitement to write “the next ‘Young Blood’”, but I personally am more excited for them to explore some of the out-there sounds they established with “Frayed” and “Eyes”.  After catching a headlining show (my buddy ended up with an extra ticket for last month’s Granada gig), the show-closing “Young Blood” seemed almost like an afterthought given the breadth of material that anchored the middle of the set.

Of all the bands we’ve covered through “The 12”, I have the hardest time with The Naked and Famous in terms of where I think they’ll go next.  The band shuns the idea of actually being famous, but if they keep pushing the electronic rock genre as they have done, there could be some pretty big doors opening up for the young band.  For some reason, I keep drawing back to Pablo Honey-era Radiohead when I think of The Naked and Famous.  Not exactly musically (though it is pretty obvious the band has drawn some influence from post-Kid A material), but more that I can hear moments of the band trying to make something new and different.  The Naked and Famous is a band completely set up with the ability to evolve, a trait that so many great bands struggle to get a grasp on throughout a career.  I know there will be fans skipping around their sophomore disc down the road looking for the next pop hit, but I’ll searching for something deeper, darker and most importantly interesting.  It’s been a fun ride following along with The Naked and Famous and they are definitely another band I don’t hesitate to throw a check in the “made it” box.

The Last Word from The Civil Wars

We’ve reached out to the artists we followed as part of “The 12” to have the last word on our project.  We asked for words, a video or something out of left field.  The Civil Wars sent a quick note of appreciation from the road.

"It’s been an honor to be a part of "The 12" with Operation Every Band. Their consistent support of our ever-winding journey of making music has been a part of building the story of what we do. Thanks for the love, and hope this next chapter for you yields even bigger and better things…"

- The Civil Wars

My Final Thoughts – The Civil Wars

Photo courtesy of East Nashville With Love


Given all the work I put in on SXSW bands earlier this year, I was at peak excitement when I walked into Paste’s annual party in the early afternoon to catch my first band of the conference.  John Paul White and Joy Williams stepped up to their mics amongst a pretty packed crowd for two in the afternoon.  By the end of the first song, my wife whispered to me that we were witnessing something special.  I couldn’t help but agree.  Six months later, The Civil Wars have legitimately created one of the biggest musical success stories of 2011.

There’s no doubt that The Civil Wars’ success is based in their songwriting, talent and chemistry, but what interested me the most throughout “The 12” project is how the band achieved so much simply by working their tails off.  Constant touring combined with smart and extensive self-promotion became the band’s mantra in every corner of the country and beyond.  In essence, the band was discovered by most through word-of-mouth, whether it be from a small-time blog or some of the most followed artists of the last decade in Adele and Taylor Swift.  The real story is what the band did with the buzz surrounding their unique sound.  They focused on venues they knew they could sell out, knowing they would revisit the same market a few months later on a larger stage.  In my home territory of Dallas-Fort Worth, The Civil Wars moved from a couple nights at a coffee house in March to a 1,000+ theater in July.  Their next show early next year will be at the House of Blues, one of the largest indoor venues in the area.  That story has been repeated in markets throughout the country, creating endless potential for the still-buzzing act.

Their tale becomes even more impressive given the perspective that they’ve done it completely on their own.  The major label approach has been put into question increasingly throughout the last few years, but the angle has been mostly from top acts like Radiohead and Wilco who had already built up a sizeable and dedicated fanbase.  From releasing one of their earliest live shows for free online to putting out their debut LP independently, The Civil Wars haven’t wavered from their dedication of doing it on their own.  As they approach 200,000 copies of Barton Hollow being sold, the band has become a benchmark for a new business model in the Internet age.  If you make great music and dedicate yourself to your art and the business side of playing music, the sky is the limit.

I’ve watched countless videos and read through interview after interview from The Civil Wars in the last half year.  One word comes to mind when I’ve been mapping out this last post: consistency.  Their setlist has remained mostly unchanged and the banter both on stage and in print always combines stories of heart, humor and appreciation.  Hell, they even wear the same outfits night to night.  With a band that focuses so much on dichotomy through their lyrics, it’s fitting that the band in many ways mirrors a canned act put together with the pure goal of selling tickets and records (think the boy band boom of the early 2000’s), but at the same time they couldn’t be more opposite.  The Civil Wars bleed honesty.  While watching them live, each time they glance at each other seems to carry so much meaning even though they do it every night.  It’s both real and manufactured at the same time, like an actor and actress in a theater pouring their hearts out on a nightly basis even though they are reading off a script.  Though in the case of The Civil Wars, they also play the role of producer, director and writer.

The Civil Wars are indeed special, a band that breaks music down to it’s core translating their hearts to their voices in a way that cannot be underestimated.  Given their recent recording sessions with Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett, Operation Every Band has merely written some early chapters in what I imagine will be a long tome.  It’s been a true pleasure following White and Williams and I’ve personally learned so much about what’s possible when you realize that dreams can come true with hard work and constant commitment to your craft, whether it be playing music, or in my case, writing about music.  Inspiration is the cornerstone of happiness, so Joy and JP can continue along “the road that has no end” knowing that they’ve given that gift to hundreds of thousands new fans.  Every tweet, article and standing ovation is our thank you note back to The Civil Wars – our appreciation for defining the ability of song to truly move us.

The Last Word from Dessa

We’ve reached out to the artists we followed as part of “The 12” to have the last word on our project.  We asked for words, a video or something out of left field.  Dessa shared the note below on the exciting last six months and life on the road.


The Last 6. 

 

Six months ago, I went on my first headlining tour. I brought along a trio of live musicians to serve as my backing band—also a first. I served as tour manager, spending most of our drives in the passenger seat calling promoters to advance the shows, Pricelining hotel rooms, devising a slapdash schedule, and trying to maintain some precarious semblance of professionalism. 

 

On the whole, the band (Sean McPherson, Dustin Kiel, and Joey Van Phillips) was very well received. Critics and show-goers liked the big dynamic changes, from the moments pin-drop moments when Sean soloed on his stand-up bass to the big crescendoes when Joey beat the shit out of his drum kit. And I scored double: I got the brilliant arrangements of the Doomtree producers and the brilliant musicianship of a live group, capable of reading and engaging the crowd. 

 

I’m writing now from the passenger seat of the same van, on my second headlining tour. This time we’re headed east. Materially, not much has changed: the five of us in the touring party spent last night in a shared hotel room, air beds occupying much of the floor space. We’re playing small rooms, and I’m still calling the promoters before the shows to figure out where we can park and how I can get us all fed. But it feels different. On our last run, we proved that the band format could work—and there were a lot of skeptics. The folks who book shows, who have real skin in the game, were concerned that we couldn’t draw as a live group playing in rooms that could accommodate our set up. But listeners from around the country came, gave us our audition, and helped us prove that we could succeed in a new arena. This wouldn’t have been impossible without grassroots support from fans, bloggers, and friends calling far-away friends to help spread news of the tour. In this industry there’s a lot of pressure for artists to stay the course or to make distinct transitions. But for an artist who wants to try and expand, it can feel like a tough sell. The support of the listeners who come to our shows, who buy instead of download, who play our music in their dorm rooms, cubicles, and cars—it’s their support that allows us to take risks as artists, beholden to one, and answering only to our own standards of excellence. Thank you. Looking forward the next 6. 

 

Dessa is on tour now, dates below. 

 

November 11. Philadelphia. Tin Angel. Tickets

November 12. NYC. Joe’s Pub. Tickets

November 14. Cambridge, MA. Middle East. Tickets.

November 16. Cleveland. Beachland Tavern. Tickets

November 17. Detroit. Magic Stick Lounge. Tickets

November 18. Chicago. Apple Store Lincoln Park. Free

November 20. Mankato, MN. Verizon Wireless Center Ballroom. Tickets.

My Final Thoughts – Dessa

The six months since we began The 12 project has been a great time to capture Dessa’s rise as a solo artist. Her first tour, as you’ll see from her letter, was so successful the band is hitting the road again, now in support of the album Castor, The Twin. Castor is made up of a reworking of existing songs and has one new offering, The Beekeeper. The risk in reworking songs is not bringing anything new and having fans feel cheated; this is not the case with Castor. The band breathes new life into the older songs and makes each a new experience. The growth of solo acts enlisting bands as they mature and prosper is an exciting trend in the evolution of hip hop. While the Roots set the standard, it is exciting to see independent artists like Dessa and others expand their sound to include instruments not usually found on stage at a hip hop show.

On a personal note Dessa’s music and career are an inspiration, her focus and development is evident in every new offering. The writing of her potential has been on the wall since the False Hopes EP but the last two years have really been a watershed moment for the lone female member of Doomtree.  Coming off of the proper freshman album A Badly Broken Code and with the release of Castor, The Twin fans have had the opportunity to see a transformation from wordsmith rapper into a legitimate musical force. While Dessa’s recorded work is great, her presence on stage and heartfelt delivery show that she is improving as a performer as much as she is as a musician. Her sets at last year’s SXSW, both solo and with the Doomtree collective, at Flamingo Cantina made for an amazing night.

I was certainly a fan prior to SXSW and watching her progress over the last year has made Dessa one of my favorite musicians working today. Her success and the success of Doomtree is no fluke, these guys are one of the best independent labels out there. They seem to have perfected being both a business and artists. Their work on reaching out online is evident, and they make it very easy to become an informed fan. Doomtree has absolutely embraced available technologies for getting their music out there, be it bandcamp, Soundcloud, through Doomtree.net, and through more traditional channels.  “No Kings” out November 22, 2011, is already generating buzz and by all indications appears to be one of the top hip hop releases of 2011. It’s rare to see such talented artists be such a tight unit, especially in hip hop.   

As we prepare for this year’s SXSW I can only hope to find another artist whose music and passion push me to share their work with Operation Every Band’s readers the way Dessa’s has. Thank you to her and to the readers who have followed Operation Every Band’s The 12.

The Last Word from The Limousines

We’ve reached out to the artists we followed as part of “The 12” to have the last word on our project.  We asked for words, a video or something out of left field.  Eric Victorino shared a few thoughts on keeping perspective in a blog-driven music world.

"Hey Kevin, thanks for following along. We’re never really the types to think of press and buzz being important to what we do, our whole experience as the Limousines is about having fun together, on stage, in the studio and hanging out at home. Meeting new people and being creative for a living is the only real reward - to be honest sometimes bloggers take this kind minute by minute, play by play approach to covering a band’s career, like it’s a football game or something - if we pay too close attention to that we might get bummed out if a couple weeks at home not doing band stuff looks to press like we’re fumbling - and maybe that approach is the only way to really monitor a band’s success from the outside but we’ve never been in this for anything more than our own personal enjoyment and making music is the best way the two of us know to live lives we’re proud of and excited by. So thank you for paying attention and if there are any people you’ve introduced us to along the way, please pass along our thanks to them for being a part of something we’re truly happy to be doing."

- Eric Victorino - The Limousines

My Final Thoughts – The Limousines

Photo courtesy of Billboard


After six months of coverage, this week marks the end of “The 12”.  I wanted to start my final thoughts with The Limousines.  Giovanni Giusti and Eric Victorino have been touring throughout the country alongside The Sounds and Neon Trees appealing to pop and dance audiences alike.  At first listen, it’s easy to be turned on to the strong beats and melodies the band has put together on their debut LP.  “Internet Killed the Video Star” and “Very Busy People” are legit pop gems and deserve all of the attention the band has gained both from casual fans and serious music listeners.  After really digging into The Limousines’ music, I’ve realized there is so much more at play.

Victorino has a true gift with words.  With so many pop bands focused on derivative topics like partying down at “the club”, The Limousines delve into the darker and grittier side of what life is in 2011.  While many dance-based bands bring a sense of hope to their music, The Limousines are firmly gripped in reality, no matter how mundane and discouraging it can be at times.  As they put it, “Nobody lives to see the future”.  It’s not necessarily sad; it’s just that life is what it is.  The trick is once you accept the reality surrounding you, you can make yourself happy in the now.  “I want to love.  I want to smile.  I don’t need much.  I’m a simple child.”  On top of that, Victorino can be just so damn clever.  The “Donnie Darko/iPod pirate ship” verse on “Very Busy People” is quite simply one of the coolest lines to come out of the last couple of years.  I’m admittedly not a lyric-focused listener, but Victorino’s lyrics seem to put a smirk on my face every time.

This project was really focused on how young bands maneuver through the current music listening landscape, but I keep getting the sense from interviews that it’s really not a factor for Victorino and Giusti.  The Limousines main focus is on having fun, which is something I really admire even though it may keep them more under-the-radar given that so many bands are in essence competing for listener’s ears.  I bet The Limousines could care less if you like their music, which is a little ironic given how accessible their sound is.  Both artists truly ooze natural talent.  If they can write the songs from Get Sharp just by emailing tracks back and forth, it’d be amazing to see what the band would come up with if they went “all in” on pushing themselves to make an impact on the music scene.

The reviews from The Sounds tour have shown that The Limousines can be a highlight act even in a supporting role.  I don’t know what their next steps are, but I for one will be paying attention.  For all the criticism I could throw at MTV, their extensive support of The Limousines this year have proven they can get a few things right musically.  If you haven’t given this band a chance yet, dig in and have fun.  Just bring your dancing shoes.    

Yuck Tour Report – October – Europe

10/24/11 – Lille Vega – Copenhagen, Denmark (courtesy of Rock Freaks)


 Immediately after Yuck’s last gig of their US tour in Brooklyn, the band headed overseas for the start of a six-week tour throughout Europe and the UK.  The tour schedule was absolutely packed with only ten days off between October 17th and November 29th.  The run started off in Brussels before heading east for a trio of shows in Germany.  The band focused on mid-sized clubs causing a few shows to sell out and most having a pretty sizable fan base.  A good deal of the audience was catching Yuck for the second or third time as the band was all over Europe throughout the summer while riding the festival curcuit.  This definitely added to the energy of the shows showing a little more movement and audience connection than the band’s US run.

The rest of October was spent in the northern part of Central Europe looping around Denmark, Czech Republick, Sweden, Stockholm and Norway.  The Prague Post shared some thoughts on the energy at Klub 007, the sound “reverberated into the concrete basement walls and sent the crowd into a buzzing frenzy that didn’t die down until well after the band left the venue”.  Rock Freaks also wrote about the strengthening band-audience connection while reviewing the Copenhagen show simply noting, “The band seemed much happier playing this time around.”  The road continues on for Yuck.  They are currently in France and have a few more stops before they round up with fifteen dates through the UK.


Video Diary:


Get Away - 10/18/11 – Underground – Cologne, Germany


Holing Out – 10/19/11 – Ampere – Munich, Germany


Shook Down – 10/21/11 – Klub 007 – Prague, CZ


Rubber – 10/23/11 – Molotow – Hamburg, Germany

David Wax Museum Tour Report – October - Eastern US

10/20/11 – PopTech Conference – Camden, Maine (courtesy of PopTech)


For David Wax Museum, there are no official “tours”, rather the band is pretty much constantly on the road every weekend of the year.  October was no different than all months prior, as David Wax Museum played fifteen dates in venues ranging from bars to festivals to a private appearance at a technology conference.  The month started out in Pennsylvania before heading south through Virginia and North Carolina.  Their tour continued in logical fashion the next weekend including headlining shows in Atlanta and Dayton and a set at Nashville’s Americana Music Conference on October 14th.  There weren’t any proper reviews to be found for David Wax Museum’s October run, but Facebook and Twitter updates showed some upticks surrounding the Atlanta and Dayton shows, proving that the band is beginning to build some sort of fan base in every nook and cranny of the country.

The latter half of the month found the band jumping up and down the coast for some interesting gigs.  The band began at Maine’s PopTech, a conference focused on idea generation and innovation.  Though these types of gigs can be out-of-left-field, a show is a show and videos show David Wax Museum bringing as much heat as they would at a headlining show in Boston.  After PopTech, David Wax Museum fit in two sets at North Carolina’s Lake Eden Art Festival, a show at a high school in Alexandria, Virginia assisted by the school’s orchestra and a headlining performance at Baltimore’s Final Friday series held at Station North Arts.  We wrap up our coverage of David Wax Museum here, but the road continues on this month including a post-Thanksgiving run through some of their biggest Northeast markets.


OEB Video Diary:


Chuchumbe – 10/9/11 – The Evening Muse – Charlotte, NC


Turn This Love Around – 10/16/11 – Canal Street Tavern – Dayton, OH


Unfruitful – 10/21/11 – PopTech – Camden, Maine


New Song? – 10/23/11 – Lake Eden Arts Festival – Black Mountain, NC


Wait For Me (w/ school orchestra) – 10/27/11 – Episcopal High School - Alexandria, VA