Pussy Riot: Still A Riot Fest

Wait we’re talking Riot Fest????

As I write this, the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics are on in Sochi, Russia.  These games have had their usual wonderful Olympic moments, but have also faced controversy due to poor accommodations and Russia’s laws against gay propaganda.  A newer, smaller story that has come out of the games is the continued tale of Russian punk band Pussy Riot (link is to their Wikipedia, as their apparent official site is in Russian).

To briefly recap: Back in February of 2012,  five members (they have a couple dozen in total!) performed in Moscow’s Cathedral Christ of the Savior.  Before church security stopped it, they made a music video of the performance titled “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!”.  They were protesting the church’s support for the re-election of Vladimir Putin as President.  Three of them, the above pictured Nadezdha Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.  Convicted, they were sentenced to two years in prison, although Samutsevich was freed in October of that year.  The other two were released after amnesty was granted this past December.

Those releases are still pretty fresh, but now the band is back in the news because of their visit to Sochi late last week and “Putin” out a video (heyo!) criticizing the Games and Putin.  While filming it, the Cossack – an auxiliary police force – horsewhipped them, which is really just crazy.  They’ve been “held accountable” according to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, and Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were detained for a few hours while in Sochi as well.

It’s an odd thing, this Pussy Riot scenario.  When you’re that kind of band, obviously your goal is to make noise and get in people’s faces regarding your views.  But, considering just how barbaric things can get in a country like Russia, if you’re a member of Pussy Riot do you ever think to yourself, “I’m going to get killed doing this”?  For me, if my life is in danger, I don’t know that I’m as actively vocal.  Maybe that’s easy to say when you live in a peaceful and free country, but some things just aren’t worth it at the end of the day.  But, the members of Pussy Riot clearly do this because they want to and don’t necessarily fear the consequences, so I guess you just gotta say more power to them.  You just can’t picture Propaghandi or Anti-Flag getting horsewhipped.

Oh, if you’re thinking “well is this group actually any good by the way?” well here’s the aforementioned “Punk Prayer” video and here’s a song called “Putin Lights Up The Fires”, which I think is pretty cool.  Of course they sing in their native tongue, but you could still be “Russian” to be “Putin” on the Riot!

…C’mon though right?  In Soviet Russia, wordplay do you!

Liner Notes: Friday, February 21st

The final weekend of February!  Good: die, winter storm season, die.

Bonnaroo has announced the 2014 lineup “and much more to be announced”.  It’ll be headlined by Elton John, Kanye West, and Lionel Ritchie, and also feature Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys, City and Colour, Bouncing Souls, and a million other acts.  The festival goes June 12th-15th in Manchester, TN.  Tickets are on sale tomorrow at noon Eastern.

Speaking of festivals, Warped Tour just announced more acts for this year: Parkway Drive, We The Kings, Vanna (who just signed with Pure Noise Records) and TheCityShakeUp will be heading out on it.  As for the latter band, for some of their online outlets they smash the entire name together as one word, and for others it’s “The City ShakeUp”.  So like, how the hell do you guys wanna spell your name?  If at some point there was an actual change in how it’s written that’s fine, just wondering.  I digress…

Since it’s turning out to be the year of the indie rock reunion in Canada – The Unicorns, The Constantines and Broken Social Scene are all coming back – MuchMusic (which apparently is officially just “Much” now?  I guess that fits, considering their lack of actual music programming) has written about other Canadian bands they’d like to see reunite.  A couple of scene-friendly acts made their list, including Alexisonfire.

So much for The Matches getting back together.  Absolute Punk speculated about that this week when the band’s Twitter account was updated and Instagram account was created, but then said that wasn’t true, and the band was just gonna post old pictures they found.  Man, when I read this I thought back to playing “Sick Little Suicide” on my college radio station back in the day.  More like “sick little song”, am I right!?

This could make you feel better if the Matches news disappoints you: also at Absolute Punk, their latest “ABSOLUTExclusive” features San Luis Obispo, California’s The Mighty Fine.  From AP: “The band is releasing Brothers and Smugglers on March 4th via Creator-Destructor Records. It was recorded and produced by Kyle Black (Strung Out, Set Your Goals, Comeback Kid) and fans of 90s melodic punk bands like Hot Water Music, Alkaline Trio, and The Lawrence Arms will definitely love this.”  When you mention my favourite band (Alk3), and say they’re continuing the California punk tradition, I’m in.

Emmure’s new album Enternal Enemies will feature a song called “Bring A Gun To School”, and predictably it’s gotten a lot of backlash.  In fact, as Alternative Press reports, former guitarist/co-founder Ben Lionetti released a statement that ripped them, particularly frontman Frankie Palmeri, and threatened to sue the band, their management and Victory Records.  It’s been deleted, but Lambgoat still has it. Here’s an excerpt:

“I feel a little need to speak out. Let’s get this straight … Emmure is MY blood sweat and tears ..MY band born from my thoughts and my hard work and writing (I’m sure you can see the change from early Emmure to now so if they say they wrote it you know it’s a lie; I was actually forced to say it was an even split wether it was money or writing credits) it will never be theirs as much as they can fake it that’s all it is .. fake. To see what Frank [Palmeri] is doing to me and my family’s hard work is absolutely disgusting. I love Mark [Davis], we hang all the time and have always been friends with Mike since the old Recon days and I still love seeing Jesse [Ketive]. But Frank is a disgusting human being and I’m also a little let down that the band members would even let that piece of garbage call a song ‘Bring a gun to school’ not to mention their management, But they just see dollar signs ..and you kids keep buying it, so sad…”.  Yikes.

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show used to bartend at former New Jersey punk club City Gardens.  How about that.  He told Vulture all about it this week.

Lastly, the Pussy Riot situation in Russia is just crazy.  I’m gonna dedicate a whole post to it this weekend.

Top Potential Scene Batting Intros

Few things turn my crank like music does, but one of those things is baseball.  It’s my favourite sport, and I’m super excited that MLB Spring Training is on.  If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with bonus baseball – Spring Training itself, the Arizona Fall League or any winter ball – I’m extremely jealous and might hate you.  It’s not all sunshine and lollipops right now because I wish my beloved Toronto Blue Jays had added a pitcher/fixed the second base problem by now, but 1) it could still happen and 2) I can’t get off the boat, they’re my team for better or worse.

As a diehard baseball fan, I like to fantasize about certain things.  One of them is, what song (s) would I use as I come up to bat?  That led me to this post, pondering some “scene” songs that would work well.  Here are some that I would totally use myself:

1) Alkaline Trio – The Poison

Alk3 is my favourite band, and while this isn’t even one of their better songs, it stands out to me as one that would make a great batting intro.  It’s definitely representative of my musical tastes, let alone just fitting.  I dig that.

2) Valencia – Safe To Say

I actually discovered this song on “MLB ’09: The Show”, so the baseball tie-in was instant.  Perhaps that’s why, but this song would totally be one I’d use too.

3) Amber Pacific – Fall Back Into My Life

I like this one for the tempo and the main riff, and I can almost picture “now batting, the centre fielder, Kevin Bottaro” more over this song than the previous two.

4) Reggie & The Full Effect – Happy V-Day

Like “Fall Back Into My Life”, this song has a perfect batting intro tempo.  That’s the key too, because, to use this very album as an example, I think “Congratulations Smack & Katy” is a better song, but wouldn’t make as good a batting intro.  I just thought of this one yesterday, and yeah it would be awesome.

Those are just some examples.  The great thing about our scene is so many songs would fit: they’re largely up-tempo and good for a pump up.  I’ll probably think of more gooders after this, but those are scene tunes I’d absolutely use to walk up to home plate.

If you’re wondering, my overall top list includes “Fireman” by Lil Wayne, “Hypnotize” by Notorious BIG, “Do It Like A Dude” by Jessie J and the obvious, almost cliche “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.  Yeah, I like lots of different genres.

Have you ever thought about this?  Am I just a total nerd?  No matter, I love baseball and I love rock music, so bi-winning!

Album Review: Have It All – Changes EP

Basically right after The Perfect Scene went live, I got an e-mail from a gentleman named Marco Marconi, who plays guitar in a Padova, Italy-based hardcore band called Have It All.  Marco introduced himself and sent along the band’s debut EP Changes, which was released earlier this winter.  And now, I present to you the first album review on TPS!

Before we get into it, I’ll say writing a review can be hard: music is very subjective, and your description of it can either make someone say “hell yeah!” “nope!” or “what is he talking about?”.  So, just know that I simply write these as a fan of music, interpreted as I experience it.  I’m sure everyone does that, but this isn’t The Definitive* (*TM) or anything.
has six songs that basically don’t stop punching you in the face.  They’re fast and heavy, and entirely screamy: aside from the gang vocals, there’s not really regular singing to be found.  One thing I found interesting right off the bat was the guitar sound: Have It All make use of almost garage-sounding chords, very lightly distorted.  Now, when the songs get going they’re full out crank-the-gain-to-ten, but I like that because you don’t always hear that sound in hardcore bands.

Another thing I liked was the band’s use of audio drops.  “Side By Side” and “Changes” feature them, and I think it’s an interesting move to break the routine and toss in a little “oh yeah” type thing.

Changes is chock full of themes like reflection, forgiveness, anger, despair, liberation, and perseverance.  Life is a volatile thing, and this EP chronicles the journey nicely.  As the title and closing track says, “I won’t fail – I will try to find my way” – sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches.

According to the liner notes, Have It All encourage you to listen to bands like Every Stranger Looks Like You, Empty Veins, Ashes of Many, Striking Justice and more.  So, let those be a further guide to what you’d get with these guys.  Also, their Reverbnation page drops Refused, Gallows and Propaghandi as bands they sound like.  Have a listen to Have It All’s Changes EP, plus get it, at their Bandcamp page.  Thanks again to Marco for reaching out!

If you want your music reviewed by TPS, get in touch anytime via e-mail (found in the profile info on the right-hand side of the page).

Skate and Surf 2014: Reunions and Stuff!

It had been pondered if Midtown’s cryptic tweet on Friday hinted at a reunion, perhaps at their home state of New Jersey’s Skate and Surf Festival.  Well, when the 2014 lineup was announced today, that was confirmed.  So, you can “Forget What You Know” (meuh!) about Midtown’s breakup, they are playing Skate and Surf.  Fantastic.

Midtown isn’t even the only reunion at Skate and Surf this year: Saosin is returning to the stage with original vocalist Anthony Green, in honour of the just passed tenth anniversary of their debut EP Translating The Name.  Green left the band when they signed with Capitol Records, and Cove Reber took over.  Anthony’s Circa Survive will also play the festival this year, on day two.  May 17th will featured the aforementioned reunions of Midtown and Saosin, plus The Early November (so that was obviously their Twitter tease on Friday was about too) and more.  May 18th again features Midtown, the also newly-reunited Hidden In Plain View (seriously, is Drive-Thru Records gonna set up shop again next!?), a to-be-announced special guest and….DMX!?  Really?  Umm….amazing.  DMX is my favourite rapper, so I would watch that with bells on!

You can click the above link to see all the acts announced so far. Weekend passes go on sale tomorrow too.  I can’t get down for Skate and Surf this year sadly, but man it would be so good.  This year’s edition takes place in Middletown, which isn’t Asbury Park, but it’s still Monmouth County on the Jersey Shore so…there’s that.  I just think Asbury Park is really cool.

When you hit the Skate and Surf site, you can see the flash graphic they have that turns the name Middletown into a certain band that’s playing this year….you’ll see what they did.

Liner Notes: Sunday, February 16th

102.1 The Edge in Toronto is asking listeners to submit pictures of their band-related tattoos via Twitter, with Brand New, Jack’s Mannequin and Coheed and Cambria among the inspirations.  Personally I would never get any tattoos, but if I got a band-related one maybe I’d put “your coffin or mine?” – from Alkaline Trio’s “Blue In The Face” – or something.  Or, something Matthew Good wrote because he’s the best lyricist ever in my opinion.

The Early November is doing something on Twitter tomorrow, and when Absolute Punk wondered if it was related to their new album this happened:

*Sad tuba*.  I guess we’ll see.

Speaking of Twitter teasing, is Midtown doing that?  Is it Skate and Surf related?  We’ll know that tomorrow too mayhaps, as the festival will begin to announce its 2014 lineup.  See because both are New Jersey-based.

You know who can get really tiny royalty cheques?  Musicians.  AUX has an article up called 7 Royalty Cheques That’ll Make You Lose Your Faith In The Music Industry.  Among the featured artists are Darkest Hour, who probably had one after seeing their cheque.

Also at AUX, The Constantines are getting back together.  Before breaking up a couple of years ago, they were one of the stalwarts of the Toronto indie scene. Click the link for a brief refresher, plus the band’s statement.

Finally, Everyone Dies In Utah have covered Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally”, and they made a video for it.  My girlfriend, who doesn’t like screaming, says it shouldn’t exist, but it does so enjoy!

Vagrant Records: Then and Now

In December 2001 I picked up the January 2002 issue of SPINU2 was on the cover as “Rock’s Unbreakable Heart” following the 9/11 attacks, and another feature talked about the return of Weezer, who five years after Pinkerton finally followed it up with another (bloody hell) self-titled album known as “The Green Album”.  At that time I was on a Weezer kick, and when the story also talked about bands that were inspired by them –  can’t entirely remember, but the term “emo” might have been used – I decided to check them out.  Apparently the label that was cornering the market on this was Santa Monica, California-based Vagrant Records, who had broken out two years earlier with the success of Something To Write Home About from The Get Up Kids.  Beyond them, the article mentioned other big, not-necessarily-inspired-by-Weezer acts like Alkaline Trio and Face to Face.  I checked them out too, and I was hooked.

The funny thing was, for the longest time I figured underground acts were ones that simply weren’t good enough to be mainstream.  If I didn’t hear it on the radio, they probably weren’t worth it.  Obviously that’s an incredibly ignorant viewpoint, but back then I was seventeen and got all my music from either MuchMusic (when they actually aired music videos) and the modern rock radio station 102.1 The Edge in Toronto.  Eventually channels like MTV2 (when they actually aired music videos?) and Fuse became available in my house, so I discovered lots of great music that was basically a casualty of the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission’s Canadian Content regulations.  Mostly though, I turned to Vagrant.

Back then, the Vagrant roster was a who’s-who of my favourite artists: the aforementioned Get Up Kids, Alkaline Trio and Face to Face were basically my top three.  Complement them with Dashboard Confessional, Saves The Day, No Motiv, Hey Mercedes, The Anniversary, etc, etc….you had a pretty strong roster.  When I ordered myself a Get Up Kids t-shirt, I also grabbed a Vagrant one – that’s the one pictured above, which I had to dig out of the “shirts I’ve had since high school that finally don’t fit anymore” pile.  Gradually, those bands either broke up or left the label, and when it came to the genre it was almost attrition for Vagrant.  The label eventually dove into some heavier bands like From Autumn To Ashes and Murder By Death, and started diversifying from their punk-based start.

A while ago I went to Vagrant’s website to check out the current roster, as it had been a while since I really knew what was up.  Boy, was I behind: the roots of the label were gone and replaced with a ton of indie rock.  Vagrant had always had a form of it – The Get Up Kids, Hot Rod Circuit, Audio Learning Center and others could be called that – but these days it’s mostly full-on hipster stuff. Now, I don’t mean that in derisive fashion: it just fits.

In recent times Vagrant has landed some pretty decent names in PJ Harvey, City & Colour (they previously had Dallas Green’s Alexisonfire too of course), Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Pete Yorn and EELS.  They’ve become a player worldwide, and with those bigger names a new wave (wait they do New Wave? Heyo!) of acts from all over have come board, not just North America.  A couple that stood out to me were Reptar – if you name yourselves after a Rugrats character, you’re fairly awesome – and California Wives, who are actually possible husbands from Illinois.  The latter band is one I would consider a personal fave of modern day Vagrant: I dig their sound quite a bit.

Sometimes when something you love changes, and not for your better, it can be hard.  Vagrant Records singlehandedly got me into underground music, but there’s no one left on the label from those days.  Does Vagrant hold the same spot in my heart as it did a few years ago?  Nope.  That said, it’s still a great label.  Be it the personal tastes of the people who work there, recognizing the current trends in independent music or a combo of both, the label has evolved and adapted nicely.  Sure it’s great when your preferred status quo is maintained, but change is a good thing too.  Many of my former Vagrant faves still exist on other labels, and now I (and you) can discover a whole other set of artists.  2014, you guys!

Liner Notes: Thursday, February 13th

I’m working on a retrospective of Vagrant Records and an album review for upcoming posts, but for now snack on these ditties:

Single and dreading Valentine’s Day?  Taken but feel the day is an entirely commercial waste of time if you’re in a good relationship?  Well Alternative Press and SPIN love you (cheeooww!): the former has 13 Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs and the latter has The 35 Bitterest Songs Ever.  Drink your Haterade and enjoy.

The Vans Warped Tour has added six new acts for this year’s edition: The Story So Far, Echosmith, Yellowcard, Born of Osiris, We Are In The Crowd and Beebs And Her Moneymakers.  Click that first link to go see every other band on the bill so far too.

Sub Pop Records has a job opening for you…as Manager in their new retail store, slated for a spring opening in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  It actually would be a pretty badass position: you work for the label, but based in a busy venue that’ll have new people in and out every day.  The store will be open basically all day too, so that’s just cool as a shopper.

Fireworks have premiered a new song called “Glowing Crosses”, off their upcoming third album Oh, Common Life via Pitchfork.  The album is out March 25th via Triple Crown Records, and they’ll be joining The Wonder Years on that band’s North American tour beginning March 5th.  Dates can be found here.

From Epitaph Records‘ own Twitter account, IKILLEDTHEPROMQUEEN will be hosting a Twitter chat tonight at 9:30 Pacific, 12:30 Eastern, 1am Atlantic, etc, etc etc….you’re the man Fleming!

PropertyOfZack passes along the news that Texas In July have replaced frontman Alex Good with JT Cavey, and are working on new music.  You can also check out a new video called “New Beginnings” in that post.  Also, while writing the band name I realized that if you mess up a couple of letters, “Texas” becomes “Taxes”.  Taxes in July!  Can’t happen because they’re due by April, but you know….

Finally, in Chart Attacks’ latest “Uncharted” feature you can meet Weaves, “the band of Toronto’s weird pop future”.  Fair enough.  Their debut self-titled EP comes out April Fool’s Day (and that’s no joke!) via Buzz Records.

Liner Notes: Wednesday, February 12th

This will be one of the most regular posts on The Perfect Scene – a quick and dirty link dump of various things going on in the world of alternative music.  Beyond the culture, review and opinion pieces, this blog is about news too, so it’s a good way to concisely summarize a bunch of stories.  It’s called “Liner Notes” because it’ll credit a bunch of people for things, and it’s music-related…whoa!  Plus you get that award-winning album-style graphic up top…boom!

Since this is the debut of “Liner Notes”, we’ll start with some SHAMELESS promotion: you can also “like” The Perfect Scene’s Facebook page, and follow on Twitter.  Beyond blog updates, I’ll definitely toss some extra stuff up, because I don’t want the social media pages to entirely be a regurgitation of the blog – that’s the beauty of these other outlets!  Okay, now on to the legit stuff….

From the invaluable Absolute Punk, the 2014 Skate and Surf Festival will hold its first lineup announcement this coming Monday. I was pretty stoked when this festival came back a couple of years ago, though it sucks that it took out The Bamboozle.  I suppose when it comes to New Jersey it’d be redundant to have both, but to keep Bamboozle Left and even Chicago would be pretty strong.

Also from AP, Fall Out Boy has released their “Flappy Bird”-inspired app Fall Out Bird.  From the comments of that story we learn that Flappy Bert also exists (ha), and people apparently still call people “sellouts”. Uh..okay?

Taking Back Sunday have announced some headlining dates on their upcoming tour, which they’ll play on off-days from their shows with The UsedTonight Alive and Sleepwave will be on the bill for those.

PropertyofZack tells us that blink-182 is demoing new music.  It’s the first update the band has given in a while, so that’s good.  Partial spoiler alert: there’s an “idea at 137bpm” and “idea at 180bpm”.  Oh that tricky band and their different tempos!

Lastly, I was just on SPIN’s website and noticed a separate article about Green Day’s Dookie turning twenty this year.  It’s two weeks old, but Stereogum has a fantastic writeup about the band’s transition to a major label, mainstream success and the very prevalent  “SELLOUT!” accusations they faced back in 1994 from the punk community.  In 2014 it might not even be worth it – it’s largely died down – but the whole “sellout” thing could warrant its own post.  It’s pretty ridiculous.  Hey maybe we will do just that soon enough…

To Be Scene

First!  See because this is the first post on this blog and people online tend to…yeah…

Welcome to The Perfect Scene.  This blog is about alternative music – largely underground, but even mainstream artists that fit the bill.  We’ll be covering news, featuring select artists, doing opinion pieces, whatever.  That’s why it’s called The Perfect Scene: it’s music we like, being covered the way we want!

I should probably introduce myself.  My name is Kevin Bottaro, I’m 29 and have been a fan of punk/indie rock/etc since my late teens, right around when “emo” became a big deal (I don’t use the term to describe artists though, it’s more fashion than genre).  My favourite band is Alkaline Trio, and I also list Matthew Good (and the even better former Matthew Good Band), Face To Face, The Get Up Kids, Taking Back Sunday, and Saves The Day among my favourites.  If you like puns and general irreverence, you’ll enjoy my writing style.  Oh, I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

As for the blog, beyond the prior explanation the name was inspired by the Mercy Mercedes song of the same name.  I tried to embed the video right here, but it didn’t work for some reason.  Well done.

I gotta give a shout-out to my top reads for our scene:  Absolute Punk and Alternative Press.  I’m a longtime reader of both and consider them the cream of the crop.  Also, although it’s not a music blog, I definitely have to plug my favourite blog in the world – Drunk Jays Fans.  Stylistically it will be the biggest influence of The Perfect Scene.

There you are.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this.  It’ll be updated regularly, and you’re absolutely welcome to contribute with comments and the like.  Let’s rock. \m/