Post-Vacation Post: Did New England Rock? (Musically)

For the past few days I’ve been away, mostly spent in beautiful, charming New England.  The trip did rock: Stephen King’s house is impressive, Fenway Park is awesome and my beloved Toronto Blue Jays absolutely pummeled the Boston Red Sox the night we attended.  But did it musically rock?  Admittedly I wasn’t really looking for blog type stuff since my girlfriend and I had our plans, but there were a couple of things I could point to.  First, on Sirius/XM satellite radio – which was on a Pop channel the entire time because girlfriend – we enjoyed several listens of The Summer Set’s newest single “Lightning in a Bottle”:

It’s hella catchy as they do, great summer jam.  Also, this shirt we found at Kohl’s in Bangor, Maine:

C’mon, the American flag as guitar necks and picks!  That rocks!  It’s not related to an actual piece of musical news or artist or whatever, but c’mon.  Fantastic.

Uh, that’s basically all I have for you.  ICYMI, to get in the know with what some New England artists are up to, you should check out the region’s own edition of “Liner Notes”.  New England simply PLYMOUTH ROCKS! Waka waka waka.

Liner Notes: Thursday, July 24th (The New England Edition!)

We’ll totally get to a typical “Liner Notes” post soon, but I’m going on vacation and won’t have much internet access during it.  You probably won’t see a post after this until late next week, but in honour of my vacation taking me down to New England, let’s see what some regional artists are up to!  What the hell, right?

Boston’s Four Year Strong put out their new album Go Down In History this week, and you can check out the first single, “Tread Lightly”, on their website.

Springfield, Massachusetts’ All That Remains are dealing with people like Callum Burns on their Facebook page:


And then Brendan Wall dished out real talk:

Ah the internet: there are some real winners on there.

Got to thinking about Boston’s The Appreciation Post since I haven’t heard anything about them in a while.  Well, they’re on hiatus!  Of course they are.  But, you can stream their entire discography on their Bandcamp and their latest EP Slip Away was named to an Under The Gun list of some choice releases that went under the radar this year.

Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Passion Pit are working on their new album.  They’ve done big things recently, really coming on in the new rock scene.

Boston’s Boys Like Girls are active..ish?  They did a hiatus that ended a couple of years ago, but not much doing on their social media sites these days.  Hey, regular time off is warranted.

Boston’s Big D and the Kids Table released two versions of a mash-up track in celebration of the improbably successful Reading Rainbow Kickstarter.  It’s their version of the show’s theme song, which is awesome.  I loved Reading Rainbow growing up, this was definitely one of the best Kickstarter projects ever.  Big D are also playing the Center of the Universe festival in Tulsa, Oklahoma tomorrow.

Bridgeport, Connecticut’s The Alternate Routes are touring, and have decided that Omaha, Nebraska is their favourite city because cupcakes.

Middletown, Connecticut’s MGMT are MTV VMA-nominated in the “Best Editing” category for “Your Life Is A Lie”.  Arctic Monkeys, 30 Seconds To Mars, Arcade Fire and The Black Keys are also among the nods to represent rock.  Those bands aren’t from New England, whoops!  Good luck to all though.  The VMAs go August 24th.

And finally, Hollis, New Hampshire’s Our Last Night are on the “Come Alive Tour” all summer with Set It Off.  Also, vocalist Trevor Wentworth got a badass shirt.

See that was fun, and we got into some news we missed over the past few weeks too.  Now, since part of my trip is indeed Boston, we’ll wrap with this:

Fan Fiction: The Reason 5 Seconds of Summer Aren’t “Scene”, If That Actually Bothers You


A while ago, Alternative Press wrote about how Australian pop-rock act 5 Seconds of Summer could be a catalyst for bringing pop-punk back to prominence.  They argued that the band’s fandom of several artists, such as All Time Low, would bring pop-punk back into the spotlight and give it a legion of new fans.  5SOS being a good-looking young group that plays poppier music and has toured with One Direction, people lost their minds over the article.  Then, at this year’s Billboard Awards, frontman Luke Hemmings wore a Misfits t-shirt, and again people lost their minds.  For some reason this really bothered people.  I know right, can you like believe some dude in a pop-leaning band dare like a band that’s heavier than the music he plays?  No way broski, that loser probably just saw the shirt in Hot Topic and thought “yeah that’ll make me look cool duder!”  I’ve never understood people having that reaction, about anyone.  It’s so dumb.

Fear not though, people up in a tizzy because a band that appreciates-but-doesn’t-play their favourite music is getting lumped in with their bands of choice, there’s one really indisputable reason that 5 Seconds of Summer can’t really be a “scene” band: fan fiction.

If you’ve never seen it, fan fiction is stories written by fans of certain artists, usually of the boy band variety.  5 Seconds of Summer have a couple of sites dedicated to this, and the following are a couple of excerpts:

“Being Carter Hood”

“Today is the day I’m going on tour with my brothers band, WOW never thought I’d say that before. Am I excited? Not really, but am I majorly excited? YES. I do a really good job at looking calm. If my brother knew how im secretly a huge fan of the other members and also have a crush on Michael who is my favorite other than Calum he’d tease me till the day I die. And to think I’ve never even met them. Weird right? Just think. Today could change everything. ‘Is this the last of your luggage?’ I swirved (sic) my head to see my brother Calum looking to me as he hovers over my last two suit cases. ‘Yeah. Thank you.’ He nods his head quickly making his dark curls shift, soon placing my suit cases in the trunk of our car. Calum and I turn at the sound of crying and foot steps. ‘Promise you’ll look after each other and call as much as possible?’ My mother worriedly sobbed as she makes her way from the front door to us on the curb. She pulled me in for a bone crushing hug then doing the same to Calum. ‘Where’s dad?’ Calum whispers into our moms ear as they hug. She pulls away and frowns at us. ‘He had to work, but he told me to tell you he loves you both and to have fun.’ I nod at her with an understanding look.”

These are legit stories written by fans.  This happens.  Some more:

“Hemmo”

“Just as he had been following it for a long time and was going to turn back, the Green light went out. What? He went loser to where it had been, and there, was a small Green object. It looked like a box. But, equally, it didnt What was it? Luke, being a Young irresponsible teenager, piked it up. At Luke’s touch it did a very strange thing indeed. It glowed for a second, wobbled, then went out. Then, unsure why, the boy was blown off his feet and landed in a nearby Bush. He got up, puzzled. What had just happened? He looked around. Ugh, nothing had happened. It was obviously some kind of joke. He decided to walk back home.
On the way home, he walked into Ashton. ‘Ash!’ he exclaimed.
‘Um… sorry, do I know you?’ He replied. Luke laughed. Ashton was always joking around like this. ‘Ash, quit the joking.’ Ashton’s face suddenly became very serious.
‘I’m not joking. Who are you?’
‘Luke. Hemmings.’
‘Luke Hemmings… Luke Hemmings… you went to school with me, didn’t you?’ Luke looked at him. ‘Yes, and we’re in a band now. 5 Seconds Of Summer.’
‘5 Seconds Of Summer? What a rediculous name. A band? Pff, even more rediculous.’ (sic)
‘Ashton! You’re the drummer.’
‘Nonsense, I don’t play the drums, what is this?’ Luke started to panic. What?!
‘Ashton!’ He started to shake Ashton, who shoved him off angrily.

‘Get off me! I have things to do, Hemmings!’ He walked off in a huff. Luke bit his lower lip and tears threatened to fall from his eyes. What had happened? Suddenly his breathing became very shallow, he found it hard to concentrate, his thoughts were clouding over…”

Plenty more where those came from.  You don’t see young girls writing fan fiction for Rise Against and the like right?  See, 5 Seconds of Summer, no matter what those sellouts at Alternative Press think, aren’t gonna do jack for pop-punk or anything “scene” related.  They’re a boy band, yo!

…Can you believe people think like that?  I’m just glad these guys have an appreciation for good music, and I like what I’ve heard from them too.  I thought that whole drawing-lines-in-the-genre-sandbox thing was dying in 2014, but I suppose it lives on in certain people.  Maybe they could write fan fiction about how all their favourite artists go out to the bar and shoot pool, and then challenge some boy band types to a game and win, and then spear them with the cues or something.  Would that help?

Festivals Vs. Regular Concerts: Which Are Better?

Forget digital downloading and direct-to-fan marketing for a second – one of the biggest trends in music over the past few years has been the growth of festivals.  From staples like Warped, Coachella, Reading, GlastonburyBumbershoot and Bonnaroo to ever-growing major players like Riot Fest, The Fest and Soundwave, it seems like every season a new one pops up.  Fall Out Boy and DCD2 Records just announced next year’s debut of the Hydra Festival, and you can’t forget all the offerings beyond the rock genre, plus radio station festivals like KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas and Weenie Roast.  They’re everywhere, and have come to dominate the touring landscape, and especially summer concert season.  The recent growth has been record-breaking.

Much has been written about whether there are too many festivals, like this, this, this, this, and this.  Personally, I don’t think there can ever been too many: festivals are awesome, and as long as they have something to offer and aren’t run like a shit show they’re totally welcomed.  However, some people get annoyed by their favourite artist just doing the festival circuit rather than a proper tour.  There are valid reasons for that too, so why don’t we compare festivals to regular concerts?

Festival Pros:

– You can see lots of artists for a good price (break it down per artist and it’s pretty strong).
– You can enjoy the nice weather outside.
– You can enjoy artists you like and discover new ones in the same day.
– You can make new friends (especially if you’re camping out).

Festival Cons:

 – Waiting through artists you don’t like to see ones you do.
– Missing someone’s set because you’re watching another artist you like, or can’t get yourself through the crowd of people to another stage in time.
– Watching with people who don’t know or like whoever is playing, bringing down the atmosphere of the set a little bit.
– Dehydration and heat stroke.

There’s no point in breaking down regular concerts like that, but basically: at a regular concert you’re only seeing who you want (aside from the opener) and with people who are also there to see said artist.  Also, unless you’re in an arena the intimacy of the venue usually plays a key role.  Those are all good things.  The downside to regular concerts?  It doesn’t usually feel like as much of a “special event” as festivals do, I suppose, and you don’t usually get the great outdoors.  Also, the price of admission can be comparable to a festival.

I’m curious to know what artists themselves would say about festivals vs. regular concerts.  At festivals they get to see their friends and do onstage collaborations they might never do otherwise, but they’re also playing to a crowd that isn’t necessarily there for them.  Playing in incredible heat/bad weather can suck too (for the fans as well).  Concerts aren’t as fanfare-heavy, but they’re all about them.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I love festivals and encourage anyone to attend and anyone wishing to start one up to do so.  As Esquire recently pointed out (and said article was the main inspiration for this post), festivals give the “2014” audience what they need: quick bursts of variety.  People are looking at their smartphones, checking social media, they get bored quickly.  Festivals might provide just the right amount today’s concertgoer needs.  Now, we’re talking about the casual fan, not hardcore types who are there to rawk.  Festivals and regular concerts have their pros and cons, and it really depends on the situation: artist, venue, festival, weather and location all play a role and make it a case-by-case basis.  No matter what, they both provide something we crave: live music.

Is The Term “Hiatus” Played Out?

 In the most recent edition of “Liner Notes”, we covered the newly announced hiatus of Mixtapes.  The band’s statement in part read: “Nothing drastic has happened—just because of life, and personal reasons, we all have reached a point where we feel like we need to go off on our own for a while. We still love playing in the band!”.  In that post, I said bands going on “indefinite hiatus” is played out.  Is it though, or is it actually totally fair?
Off the top of my head, here are some other bands who have previously gone on “hiatus”:

blink-182

Autopilot Off
Thursday
Fall Out Boy
The Get Up Kids

Blink’s 2005 hiatus was probably the one that started the trend, unless the fact that it was such a notable thing just makes it seem that way.  They got back together in 2009, and really it took Travis Barker almost dying in a plane crash to make that happen.  Autopilot Off are back together and working on new music, Thursday officially disbanded after a time, and Fall Out Boy and The Get Up Kids got back together and put out new albums.

Obviously way more bands than those have gone on hiatus, so to refresh my memory/find more I just seached “hiatus” on Absolute Punk and came across posts about Thee Oh Sees, Every Avenue, Good Charlotte, Wolf Parade, Atreyu, Yellowcard and others.  Of all those bands, some are back together, some still aren’t and some officially “broke up”.

The thing that annoys me about the term “hiatus” is how cliche it’s become: any band that will be taking time off says they’re going on “hiatus”.  Being in a band is pretty hard work: they write music, tour the world and spend more time in a van than most.  It can definitely take its toll, and like any occupation, they’re entitled to time off.  I get that if a band plans their time off to be a long while, they might feel the need to qualify that.  I just don’t feel they always have to.  I also get that saying “breakup” puts a finality on the situation that “hiatus” doesn’t, but a “breakup” doesn’t mean you are never, ever ever, getting back together.

I guess saying “hiatus” or “indefinite hiatus” isn’t bad overall, and fits certain situations.  I just think it’s become a buzz term that gets thrown around in response to any inactivity, and that’s getting annoying.  To each their own, I guess.

By the way, No Motiv?  Are you guys okay?  Are you dead?  I know there are side projects galore but I miss you.  Uh…I also think you’re kinda badass for just not saying anything and doing whatever you want.

Okay, so until the next post, The Perfect Scene is going on hiatus.  We’ll chat by this weekend!  Qualify those couple of days or so of inactivity, baby!

Profile: Unlocking the Truth, The Eighth Graders Who’ve Signed To Sony


Over the weekend, music news websites blew up with a report from the New York Daily News that Sony Music had signed Brooklyn-based metal band Unlocking the Truth.  The reason this is so noteworthy?  They’re going into grade eight.  When I first glanced at the headlines I thought “They’re EIGHT!?  Holy crap!” but upon realizing it was grade eight and not eight-years-old, I was still pretty goddamn impressed as these guys have done life better than you and I did at that age.  The deal is for two albums, with options for up to six and a total sum of $1.7 million.  So, who are these wonder kids exactly?  Let’s find out…

Unlocking the Truth is thirteen-year-old guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse (what a last name too), thirteen-year-old bassist Alec Atkins and twelve-year-old drummer Jarad Dawkins. They first gained attention when they would set up in Times Square, and ended up with several gigs when Eric Clapton’s drummer, Steve Jordan, discovered them in 2012.  This year, they played Coachella, and are playing Warped and Heavy Montreal.  They’ve opened for Guns N’ Roses, and in the coming days Queens of the Stone Age too.  Umm…amazing?

Besides their age, one thing that immediately (and rightly or wrongly, I guess) came to mind when I first heard about this: Unlocking the Truth’s members are black.  It feels weird pointing that out in 2014 and ultimately it’s of no consequence, but you still don’t see too many black guys in rock bands.  For every Longineu Parsons, there are hundreds of pasty white dudes.  I think it’s cool, and will just continue to break barriers of what any musician – black, white, man, woman, etc – “should” be doing.

According to their website bio, Unlocking the Truth is inspired by bands like Metallica, Slipknot, Disturbed, Living Colour, Escape the Fate, Motionless In White, and Chelsea Grin.  Here’s a video of them performing in Times Square:

So a $1.7 million record deal by eighth grade….I was playing trombone in my school band back then, how were you also not as cool as these dudes?  They’re recording their first EP this month.  Congrats and best of luck to Unlocking the Truth!

Liner Notes: Wednesday, July 9th

Amber Pacific apparently can’t release “When I Found You”, which feature’s All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth, as the first single from their new album The Turn, because Hopeless Records and the latter band’s management said “All Time NO” (hey-o!).  It will still appear on the album, at least.  Also on their Facebook page (linked to), check out other offerings from The Turn, and more will come as those are listened to.  The album itself is out July 29th.

Absolute Punk passes along a statement from Mixtapes, who have decided to take a hiatus.  It reads in part: “Nothing drastic has happened—just because of life, and personal reasons, we all have reached a point where we feel like we need to go off on our own for a while. We still love playing in the band! but especially because of the way our band has always been… Because we started solely as an outlet for things going on in our lives, and because we’ve always prided ourselves on being genuine, we feel like it would be wrong to continue. We feel like a lot of bands reach a point like this and choose to continue and make bad records because of it. We don’t wanna be that band!”.  You know, this whole “indefinite hiatus” thing is played out: a band can take a break, that’s totally allowed.  Do they really need to announce it?  I get wanting to leave the door open by not saying “breakup”, but would saying that stop a band from getting back together if they really wanted to?  Regardless, all the best to Mixtapes during their hiatus.

Also via AP, are you down with shoes from Macbeth and The Gaslight Anthemshoes that are vegan?  Those are a thing.

Was the Upon A Burning Body missing…uh, body, incident a publicity stunt?  Obviously, but don’t tell that to frontman Danny Leal.  The “missing” person in question acts clueless in a new video, which you can watch (and read more about) at Alternative Press.  Hey how about those new singles and album?  Quite the coincidence…

Paramore’s Hayley Williams talked with Rolling Stone about the success of “Ain’t It Fun” and more, including her thoughts on being the focal point of the band: “You know, it depends. [Sometimes] we do TV spots, interviews, and we spend tons of time talking and you think that it feels very evenly spread out, you think that it feels deep and the questions are nice, and then it gets edited and then it’s just you, and it’s just asking about your hair. That’s the stuff that I get uncomfortable with.”  

No Sleep Records has a free downloadable sampler for you called Summer of No Sleep, featuring The Felix Culpa, Allison Weiss and others. 

Remember emo band Park?  Dying Scene has details of their first release in eight years being streamed.  It’s an EP called Jacob The Rabbit, which will be released next Tuesday (July 15th).

Via Chart Attack, you can watch “Untold Noise”, a documentary about the the rise of Toronto’s noise punk scene created by Dead Beat Productions.

Lastly, SPIN has the video for Interpol’s new single “All The Rage Back Home”.  It’s the first single from El Pintor, the band’s first album in four years, due out in September.  SPIN called the video “a surfer’s wet dream”.  I happen to like rock music and surfing, so I’m down.

Instruments Are Hard: Why You Shouldn’t Insult Someone’s Musicianship


Yesterday I played my guitar for the first time in a while.  Once again, I remembered something I’m always reminded of every time I play:  I’m not exactly good at guitar.

Playing guitar, or any instrument, is a really impressive skill.  Not everyone can do it, and there are varying degrees of how well someone plays.  Sometimes the skill lies in how they play, not what they can play. No matter how hard the actual riff, etc is, it’s hard.

One thing that sets me back as a guitarist is my fingers: they’re double-jointed, and sometimes when I go to switch chords they almost seem to lock up for a second.  It sounds like they should be even more flexible, but not really.  I could just be an idiot and this doesn’t actually happen, but I’ve found – depending on the chord – that it’s a thing.

Open chords can be a pain, but even power chords are tough.  People think because the fingering doesn’t really change it’s easy, but nope.  If you don’t play guitar, here is what a power chord typically looks like:

Power chords are played on the low E, A, D and G strings (standard tuning) and are what you typically hear in rock music.  People say stuff like “oh that punk band sucks, they’re just three-chord douches” but even those are hard:  the fingering doesn’t usually change, but like any guitar work your fingers need to build enough strength to sustain them.  Holding the chord with your pinky, ring and index finger – not to mention the thumb in behind supporting the fingering, which is the most taxing part – takes effort.  I’ve tried palm-muting – laying the side of your hand on the strings and strumming – and had my hand seize up in seconds.  It doesn’t look hard to play, it but it really is.

Another thing about guitar is there’s very little room for error.  The strings are like two-thirds of a centimetre (a third of an inch) apart, and the slightest miss by your fingers or your pick will mess up the chord.  To play fast – even with a relatively simple riff – is hard.

When it comes to drums, learning to keep your foot independent from your hands is tough.  The kick pedal usually does a different beat than everything else, and it’s easy to lose that when you’re trying to sustain another part.  Drums are easier to learn than guitar (I think anyway) but they keep the beat, and a drum mess-up will ruin the whole song.

As for bass, whether you play with your fingers or a pick, it’s almost entirely single notes and the strings are heavy – keeping on them securely can be a challenge.  A bass can blend in better than other instruments and mask any lack of skill – or errors – but still, sucking is bad and it takes skill to not suck.

Forget just playing skill for a sec, there’s skill in all music regardless of how hard it is to play.  Bands like Protest The Hero are praised for their musicianship, as they should be.  But a band that lives off typical power-chord driven guitar with little use of riffs, solos or whatever still has skill.  The skill is there because it’s hard to play, and it’s there because they know what will fit with their music.  It’s not what you can do, it’s how you utilize it.

It takes a hell of a lot of practice to play any instrument, and anyone who can do it has talent.  When you think of people who play while singing, that’s even crazier: multitasking and keeping the voice and instrument independent is pretty damn hard.  Every time I play, I’m reminded that if I ever wanted to be a full-time musician I’d have a long way to go.  Even if you’re really good at an instrument, don’t be a snob when you listen to others: there’s skill in every note played by anyone.

Track Listing: USA! USA! Rock For Independence Day

You notice how I did some rhyming in the title?  Cute points!

National holiday week continues in North America: Tuesday was Canada Day, and we did a corresponding edition of “Track Listing” in honour, and tomorrow is America’s Independence Day.  With that, let’s…well, do a corresponding edition of “Track Listing”.  Again, this will be music conducive to celebrating Independence Day, be it with USA-related themes or just simply “good time” stuff from American artists regardless of subject matter:

Amber Pacific – “Summer (In B)”

Seattle’s Amber Pacific have reunited with original vocalist Matt Young and will release The Turn later this summer, their first album in four years.  Found on 2007’s Truth in Sincerity, “Summer (In B)” is a rockin’ punk blast that’s equal parts sad and hopeful.  Our summer is of course just getting started, but you should totally rock this one before it fades to cold autumn days….rock it July 4th, in fact.

Autopilot Off – “The 12th Day”

These guys.  These guys right here.  Hailing from Orange County….NEW YORK (whatt??????  It’s in the New York City area) Autopilot Off are thankfully back together and working on new music.  2004’s major label debut Make A Sound features “The 12th Day”, an ode to resilience and recovery beginning the day after 9/11.  Patriot Day exists for September 11th itself, but after 2001 Independence Day took on even more, and you can remember the spirit of the American people – and rock the f out – with this one.

The Summer Set – “Boomerang”

You know who does pop-rock well?  Scottsdale, Arizona’s The Summer Set.  The first single off last year’s Legendary, “Boomerang” provides the catchy tune, upbeat lyrics like “If I was Jay-Z, you’d be my Beyonce/we could rock the nation like they do” and woos and ooo ooo ooos.  That, and the band has “summer” in their name!  How could they not be part of a…wait for it…SUMMER SET!?

Real Friends – “Late Nights In My Car”

In some ways Independence Day, much like summer itself, is about reflection.  Reflecting on an America pre-9/11, pre-Obama or whatever President or politician you don’t like, whatever.  Reminiscing with friends and/or family you only get to see in summer vacations because of school or the real world taking you elsewhere.  Nostalgia runs deep and can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be sad and sometimes not just because it’s no longer the present.  Ever been up in the Midwest with sleepy eyes?  Chicago’s Real Friends have, and they get it.

Modern Baseball – “The Weekend”

This year, Independence Day falls on a Friday – that’s means LONG WEEKEND!  Chances are you’re attending a party or some kind of festive gathering, and you should totally get covered in custard and cookies and cream – and then someone could lick it off you, right?  That’s erotic.  This song’s actually an ode to going out, being awkward and just rollin’ with it.  Hey, that’s life.  Plus, Modern Baseball are from Philadelphia – you know, only the birthplace of America, for Christ’s sake!

State Champs – “Elevated”

When immigrants crossed the Atlantic in search of a better life, they were welcomed by New York’s Statue of Liberty.  Today, if you went upstate to the capital of Albany, you’d find State Champs.  “Elevated” is just good-ass pop-punk, found on their latest album The Finer Things, released last fall.  If holidays make you feel whole again, you need some State Champs on Independence Day.  You can also grab their merch at Hot Topic, while is like “zomg RLY no wai selloutssss!!!!!1!1” according to crazy elitists who frown on anything that helps bands be bands for a living, even still in the year goddamn 2014.

Fireworks – “Summer”

Hailing from the Detroit area, Fireworks are called fireworks and we’re talking Independence Day!  If you can appreciate longing for DC at 2am under Lincoln, “Stand By Me” movie references, songs called “Summer” that mention fireworks by bands called Fireworks, and pop-punk, you can appreciate this offering for your Independence Day soundtrack.

Much like with the last post, I tried to pick artists and/or songs that we haven’t talked about as much.  Whatever you listen to if you celebrate Independence Day – American or not – have a good-ass day tomorrow.