Concert Reviews Features

CMJ 2013: 5 Bands to Watch



Last week, hundreds of bands and music industry professionals ascended onto New York for the annual CMJ Music Marathon. While many acts attended with the goal to be signed by a label or simply get their name out there, artist Will Hoge offered advice during his set Wednesday night at the Bell House. Urging artists not to simply play a festival in hopes to get signed, he said they should instead hit the ground running by buying a van big enough to fit the band and their friends and tour the country themselves.

“If you want to follow your dream, you don’t want to ask permission,” he told the crowd. “It may take a long time. It may take five years, ten years, 15 years. You just don’t know. You could be a long way from home.”

5. Will Hoge

Hoge knows this firsthand as he’s been working in music for 15 years. While he wasn’t exactly on the official CMJ lineup, his performance was during the festival and as a few badge holders trickled into his set, he was a reminder of how hard work, persistence, and a little luck are essential for a career in music. His show acted as a an album release party and tour kickoff and his blend of country and rock reaffirmed just why he’s so highly regarded in the music community.


4. Marc Scibilia

During his set, Marc Scibilia, played many of the songs from his most recent EP, The Shape I’m In, released last month. ”I almost missed two flights today. Fortunately, I only missed one flight. I spent a lot of time in the airport but I’m here now so it’s fine,” he said before he began to play “The Shape I’m In.” It was a fitting introduction, as the song details the many miles he’s traveled in life.



3.Tommy & the High Pilots

Santa Barbara-based band Tommy & the High Pilots performed Friday night as part of my work showcase. The moment they took the stage the energy in the room changed with their radio-friendly pop-rock. Playing songs off their latest album, Only Human, the band urged the crowd to dance along for their last track “Outta My Head.” The band’s upcoming tour with the Plain White T’s and Parachute will likely shine a light on their catchy choruses and strong pop sensibilities.



2. Rocket & the Ghost

Part of why I love attending CMJ is that you can walk into any venue throughout New York and never quite know what you’ll find. On Wednesday, I went to meet my roommate at The Living Room to check out a few bands. As soon as I heard the first notes being played by Rocket & the Ghost I was hooked. It’s hard to believe that the band will be releasing their debut Self-Titled EP in November as they had this distinct professionalism and command of the stage that made them look like lifers.



1. James Bay

Another artist who was part of‘s acoustic set Friday night, from the moment James Bay took the stage I was entranced. His soulful vocals are reminiscent to Ray Lamontagne and once he swapped his acoustic for an electric guitar the comparisons to John Mayer were undeniable. The only difference: Bay seems more sentimental, even singing of having butterflies at the beginning of a relationship. Key line: “I realize you’re all I need. I hope I’m not too late.”



Concert Reviews Festivals

CMJ: 5 Bands to Watch

Earlier this month, hundreds of bands visited New York for CMJ. Here’s a look at 5 to keep on your radar.

1. Savoir Adore

Last year I interviewed this act as a preview to CMJ. Unfortunately I never caught a show so I made it a point to witness them live this time around. Performing for WFUV’s showcase at the Living Room, Savoir Adore revealed their impressive harmonies alongside foot stomping rhythms and catchy lyrics.

Playing many tracks off their new record Our Nature, the band hushed the packed room as their soaring vocals echoed throughout the venue. Songs like “Sea of Gold” and title track “Our Nature” make the Brooklyn based band an act to watch.

2. Wax Poetic

That same night Wax Poetic took the stage at the Living Room. With sultry vocals from lead singer Sissy Clemens I couldn’t help but think of Amy Winehouse. Alongside gritty guitar and jazzy percussion features the band stood out. Not to mention their memorable lyrics. The introspective “Beautiful” struck a chord with lines like, “The darkest corners of my life can’t always shine a light.” Meanwhile, the sultry “No Escape” captivated before “On A Ride” (also the title track to their latest album) closed the set.

3. Suzanna Choffel

Perhaps my favorite part of CMJ was seeing TV darling Suzanna Choffel perform in the flesh. Having written about her as a contestant on The Voice singing cover songs it was refreshing to hear her original music. Her set at ZirZamin was a southern fused jam which showcased her bluesy and at times raspy vocals. While some tracks featured her rock style others had a slight island feel.

“This is what I hope I don’t do while walking in the streets of New York,” Suzanna said while introducing her song “Stumble.” “I have bad ankles and don’t do heels. Cowboy boots are good, sneakers are better.”

With a solid instrumental breakdown and her come-hither vocals the track impressed. Meanwhile, the poignant “Hello Goodbye” struck a chord. Written in memory of her favorite club Momo’s in Austin, Texas, the stripped down track showcased her vocals.

She couldn’t end the night without talking of her time spent on The Voice. “I’m on a little show maybe a couple people like it, it’s called The Voice,” she said. “Unfortunately I don’t do original music [on The Voice]. I think there should be a show called The Song,” she added before closing the set telling concertgoers to “Stay tuned to NBC for yours truly.”

4. Bess Rogers

I’ve caught Bess Rogers several times live over the past few years and her angelic vocals never cease to amaze me. Her intimate set at Rockwood Music Hall had the packed room mesmerized. If you weren’t there, you may recognize her voice from the Cherrios commercial as she recently wrote a new jingle for them as well as new single “The Perfect Day.”

Her set included a combination of older fan favorites and newer tracks from her album Out of the Ocean. Fun numbers like catchy “Math & Science” had the crowd tapping their feet along while the beautiful “In the Waves,” a track about a mermaid calling her love back to the water, showcased Bess alone on vocals and guitar before added piano parts.

5. Kimbra

I interviewed Kimbra the day of her first of two sold-out performances at New York’s Webster Hall. Having skyrocketed to popularity in the U.S. after her feature on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” the 22-year-old finds herself on her first U.S. headlining tour.

Her set that Friday was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Dressed in a multi-colored tutu, Kimbra pranced around stage with a sense of ownership. Her lively performance captivated and whether it was her more upbeat numbers or slowed ballads that hushed the room like “Two Way Street,” her soulful vocals were memorable. Catch her live while you still can!

Song of the Week

Song of the Week: "Go Away My Lover'

I haven’t been able to stop playing this song by Elizabeth and the Catapult after their phenomenal CMJ showcase last night. With captivating vocals, striking guitar accompaniment and catchy whistling, it’s a memorable track that is bound to get stuck in your head long after the first listen.

Watch below as Elizabeth and the Catapult perform the track live from their showcase last year at CMJ. Stay tuned for my complete CMJ reviews in the upcoming days.

Features Festivals

It’s About The Song: Radio and A&R Panel Discuss Music, Songwriting, Local Talent

Photo Credit: Courtesy, The Jazz Lawyer

In a world of instant gratification, at one of CMJ’s most informative panels, music industry pros discussed the power of the song, perseverance and passion.

Moderated by RXP’s Matt Pinfield, combined with panelists Leslie Fram (Program Director, RXP), Brian Phillips (Music Director, RXP), Matt Pollack (Manager, Monotone Inc.), Ron Burman (Senior VP of A&R, RoadRunner Records) and S*A*M* Hollander (Songwriter/Producer), the 75-minute talk provided music lovers and makers insider information on how to get their favorite music heard.

What differentiated this panel from others was the evident excitement each panelist held for live music and the love to promote good music.

“We love music. We’re passionate about it. I consider this panel to be more the exception than the rule at this point. There are a lot of people in it [the music business] who don’t care about music, artists, or artist development. It saddens me, but we do every part that we can,” Pinfield told the audience.

Time and time again, each speaker stressed that great artists aren’t the product of overnight success.

“Get there on your own time table. Do it at your own pace,” Burman advised. “Have a level of credibility and live sense about you so that you can spread your art.”

Each panelist agreed on the importance to make a mark in your community first before anything else.

“If you can make a noise in your community and draw well, we’re going to take notice,” Fram said.

While the live show is one of the most important elements before signing a band for Pollack, the rest of the panelists spoke of the importance of the song.

“It’s about the song. It’s about the connection. I’ll listen to hundreds of songs in a week and it’s just that gut reaction that makes me want to hear the song again and again,” RXP’s Phillips said. “I’ll do some legwork and look up the band and their blog and their MySpace page. It’s about presenting that song, that feeling, that excitement of playing a new song on the radio that’s cool and that people will really enjoy… it’s about that connection as a music fan.”

Though Burman, who signed Nickelback, wants to see a band that can deliver live, he says the song has to strike a chord with him to make him interested.

“It’s more of an intuitive thing where I love a song, I love a vibe, I love what I hear and if they’re selling or reacting, that’s a plus. It’s the song and how I connect with it first and foremost; something that can appeal to people all over every walk of life,” Burman said.

While it is evident that the impact the song has on music lovers holds great importance, without the help of radio many bands wouldn’t have the success they have today. On the outside for the first 10 years of his career, writer/producer S*A*M* Hollander talked of his rise to co-writing and hit songs he wrote with artists including Gym Class Heroes, Gabe Saporta, and Katy Perry.

“Hits are still king. I like to throw around sports analogies very loosely. It’s almost like baseball. To make radio, it’s like the closing pitch. It’s Mariano Rivera of the Yankees. Radio, we need to bring the thing home. Blogs are a great aggregator and iTunes, but radio is king to me. You still want that one big hit that’s iconic,” Hollander said.

Whether you’re on a major record label or independent, RXP’s Fram doesn’t care.

“We didn’t look at labels. We felt, if an unsigned band had a great song, what’s the difference in that with a signed band that had a great song? We were all about developing artists, and not the song mentality,” she said talking of her time at radio station 99X in Georgia.

RXP’s Pinfield got his start at college radio while attending Rutgers University. Adamant about playing local bands on his radio show, he urged students to do the same.

“[College radio] was a way to create community. Do as much for the artist you believe in. Give them a shout out. College radio is the place for that to start,” he said.

“My main advice to you is don’t give up. If you love something, whether you’re an artist, you want to be a disc jockey, you want to work in radio. Just don’t give up and don’t let people discourage you and tell you that you’re not good enough or you can’t do it if you believe in it wholeheartedly in your whole soul. It’s just a matter of persistence. It’s just that love for it,” Pinfield said.

This article was originally posted on The Jazz Lawyer.

Features Festivals

CMJ 2010: Five Artists to Watch

With hundreds of musicians in New York for CMJ last month, it’s nearly impossible to not discover a new favorite band. While bigger shows like Phoenix at Madison Square Garden created hype, up-and-coming musicians left impressions of their own. Below is a list of five acts to keep your eyes on in the next few months. Whether it was a room of 20 or 200, each band left their mark. Give them a listen and see why.

1. Elizabeth and the Catapult

Rockwood 2 was packed to capacity Saturday night as Elizabeth and the Catapult took the stage. While a line continued to form out the door, the band impressed with a 40 minute set that featured breathtaking vocals from Elizabeth Ziman combined with fitting musical accompaniment. The official CMJ showcase acted as a mini CD release show as the band’s next release was due out Oct. 26. While fan favorites like “Taller Children“ had concertgoers singing along word for word, newer tracks like the powerful “Go Away My Lover” hushed and captivated the room. As Ziman alternated vocals with Jeff Taylor, additional cello and edgy percussion parts accentuated the song well. Complete with whistling and a darker sound than previous songs on their set-list, the stand-out track impressed.

Watch a video of “Go Away My Lover” from Elizabeth and the Catapult’s CMJ performance below.

2. The Honeymoon Thrillers

Based in Nashville, The Honeymoon Thrillers came together after a discovery of records from the 1950s lying around the house. The five members are from four different bands and while they haven’t left their separate projects just yet, after I witnessed them live at CMJ they might soon reconsider. With classic guitar licks and “woah-oh-oh’s” that bring back rock & roll from the 50s, their energetic set was a crowd pleaser. Tracks like “Shine” embody the Beach Boys with spot-on harmonies and catchy choruses while frontman Nathan Barlowe’s energetic stage presence brought to mind Elvis Presley and his gyrating dance moves.

3. Matthew Mayfield

After a jam-packed morning of panels, while waiting for a friend to finish an interview I stopped by Rockwood 2 just as Matthew Mayfield took the stage at 3pm. Alone on acoustic guitar, his vocals reverberated throughout the room, having all in attendance drop everything to listen. With raspy Dave Matthews-esque vocals accompanied by his emotion-filled lyrics, the singer-songwriter struck a chord. Older songs like “Element” livened up his Friday afternoon performance while his intricate guitar finger picking fueled more angst-ridden songs including “Dead To You.” Mayfield’s vocals sound so familiar it comes as no surprise that his music has appeared on “Grey’s Anatomy.” While “First In Line” can easily be pictured on the show, it was “Fact or Fable” that made the greatest impact. Combined with fierce guitar strumming and Mayfield’s deep vocals, his voice silenced the room.

Watch Mayfield perform “Fact or Fable” on YouTube below and learn why he says it’s the heaviest song he’s written.

4. James Maddock

Combined with powerful vocals and descriptive lyrics, James Maddock’s music holds a certain timeless quality to it. His songs paint vivid pictures of love and failed relationships accompanied by soaring guitar and Maddock’s wavering vocals. Tracks like “Chance” embody an epic sound that can easily be pictured on the big stage while slower ballads like “Beautiful Now” showcase his more sensitive side. At times, his music evokes a certain Bruce Springsteen quality so it’s no surprise that The Boss himself is a fan and frequently plays Maddock’s music before he takes the stage. In the process of recording his next album, fans can expect to hear much more from the Englishman soon.

Watch James Maddock perform “When the Sun’s Out” on YouTube below.

5. The Ramblers

While they’ve been compared to The Band and “the finest Tennessee sippin’ whiskey,” the New York-based ensemble showcased their southern flavor during a performance at National Underground. The Ramblers had the room stomping their feet during upbeat numbers including “Leave a Letter Behind” and “Matter of Fact.” Alternating vocals between Jeremiah Birnbaum and Scott Stein proved effective and additional singer Shanna Zell added to their classic Americana rock. With soulful vocals and fleshed-out piano and guitar interludes, it was hard to assess who was having more fun: the band onstage or the fans on the floor. The Ramblers transformed the NYC venue into a southern honky tonk, having concertgoers sing and dance along during Birnbaum’s impressive guitar licks and Stein’s ferocious strokes of the piano. With frequent NYC gigs, The Ramblers are never too hard to find.

This article was originally posted on The Jazz Lawyer. Stay tuned for more interviews from CMJ in the coming weeks.

Festivals News

Join YSIW for CMJ Thursday Night in Williamsburg!

I’m psyched to be hosting my first CMJ party next Thursday night in Williamsburg! The show will feature performances by two of my favorite New York bands including The Ramblers, The Canon Logic and Los Angeles based Nightmare and The Cat.

Free shirts from CPHARRIK, and all kinds of delicious food from YIEatN will also be provided. The show starts at 10pm and all are welcome, but space is limited so make sure you RSVP. Come say hi if you do stop by!

Complete details below:
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Food: 7:30pm, Show: 10pm
132 N 5th St, Brooklyn, NY

Hope to see you there!


Other Lives Impress At CMJ With Debut EP Tracks

“We are the Other Lives from Stillwater,” announced frontman Jesse Tabish to a packed crowd at Mercury Lounge. “Last time I was here I introduced our band as our town. I’m not going to make the same mistake again.”

It’s not always easy for a band to be the first onstage for the night, but Other Lives worked the crowd, and by the end of their set, it was easy to tell that those in attendance were impressed. Playing a solid 35-minute set, the band, made up of guitar, bass , keyboard, drums and cello, had an incredibly rich, deep sound that permeated throughout the room. Many songs had strong instrumental interludes that showcased the band’s powerful musical structure.

The near-seven-minute track “End of the Year” featured Tabish’s deep vocals, as the musical accompaniment was beautifully interwoven into the song. At one point the song became much darker, changing the mood in the room all while slowing down the set before picking it right back up again. The crowd could be seen gazing up towards the stage in earnest, continuously wondering what would come next.

Tabish’s vocals are vaguely comparable to that of John Lennon’s. In fact, in some of the songs you can almost hear the inspiration of the Beatles as well as bands like Radiohead and Coldplay with each musical interlude.

Most of the songs from the group’s seven-song set can be found on the band’s MySpace or its recently released debut EP. From the crowd reaction Friday night, I think the Other Lives have a lot more music left to be made.

You can read this review originally posted on the CMJ blog here.

Festivals Interviews

Theresa Andersson

I spoke with Theresa Andersson during CMJ week right before her amazing live performance where she played multiple instruments with the help of two loop pedals, all while dancing throughout her set — truly a sight to see. Theresa spoke to me about her writing process, recording her album in her kitchen, as well as her inspiration which draws upon living in New Orleans combined with her Swedish roots.

If that isn’t interesting enough for you, when listening closely to tracks on her latest album, Hummingbird, Go! you can hear birds chirping outside her kitchen window while sirens are blaring in the background. Not your average recording, Hummingbird, Go! is full of depth and if you listen closely you can pick up much of the surrounding environment. While Theresa is pretty certain her next album won’t be recorded in her kitchen, she does plan on continuing her demos there. And after watching the video below, I can’t wait to hear what she comes up with next.

Watch the video for “Birds Fly Away” recorded live in Theresa’s kitchen below to get a feel for her music and be sure to read the complete interview below.


What can people who come to see you perform expect? I’ve heard your live show is amazing and you use two loop pedals while performing.
I have a pretty interesting setup. It really starts with a big, white shag rug on the floor since I play barefoot so I can turn knobs with my toes and operate the pedals. I have two loop pedals on a big board that sort of looks like a boomerang shaped in front of me. It’s two-layered and there are pedals on either side of the board on the ends of it and in between there’s a whole bunch of pedals for switching pedals and for effects. Then, I have drums to my left, just three drums and some chimes and various percussion stuff. In front of me are two microphones, one I use for looping and one for vocal and then I have a violin and dulcimer and record player onstage. All these things I use to create the songs and build them up and I loop and record everything live.

It’s a very interesting format of playing because the pedals are definitely limiting and in the beginning when I started using them, it was really difficult. I had to spend many, many hours just figuring things out. I would spend 8 to 10 hours a day for weeks and weeks. It takes about three weeks to four weeks to really get a song in my body. I can rehearse them quicker then that, but to really feel like they’re me. I actually ended up having to break everything down to the beat. I had to figure out what to do with each beat. On some songs, especially when I set them up, between the first and second instrument I might do nine or ten different things. I have to switch things, turn things on and off and I do all that all with my toes while I’m playing it so I had to really think everything through. It became this dance with the pedals that I had to work out. After a while I started thinking of it as a dance, that’s when it really became fun. I actually ended up falling a lot in the beginning. I’ll be standing on one leg and I’ll stretch the other one out, skip steps or jump. At one point I have to stand on my heels and hit two pedals at the same time, so I couldn’t keep my balance at first. I had to take dance lessons from a friend of mine, just to figure out how to do it, how ballet dancers do it. Sometimes when I’m here in the city I’ll see shows. Recently I saw the New York City Ballet. When I saw them, I was like, “Okay, they can do all that, I should have no problem learning to hold my balance.”

So much concentration goes into every performance. Are you ever scared you’re going to mess something up or push the wrong button?
If I push the wrong button, what I’ve learned to do is to keep playing without making a mistake. I’m so comfortable with it now that the loop pedals are more of an instrument to me now since I’ve done it for a while. I play it like it’s an instrument so if I make a mistake it’s not such a big deal. It’s impossible to make it perfect at all times, but that’s what gives it a charm and that’s what gives each performance its uniqueness. The two pedals don’t synchronize with each other, so I have to do all the synchronizing. I think the loop pedal itself, there’s nothing new about it. It’s been around for a really long time and many people have used it. It’s perhaps the way I use it that’s a little bit different.

Tell me about recording your album. You recorded it all in your kitchen?
Yeah, that’s right. It wasn’t really planned. I wrote the record in New Orleans, most of it, and I ended up downloading everything in my kitchen. I have a laptop and I used Garage Band. It has its limitations too, so I would just use it to make the sounds and make it feel good when recording the demo. When the producer heard it, he really liked the way it sounded and he asked me, “Where did you record this?” and I said, “In my kitchen!” and he said, “Well, let’s make the record in your kitchen.” So we made the record in the kitchen.

I also had played all the instruments on the demo, but I didn’t really think that we were going to keep me as the only musician on the record. I thought, for sure we’re going to have a drummer and a bass player and all these things. Tobias Froberg, who produced it, he had seen me play the solo show when it was in its infancy and he really wanted to capture that vibe of one person doing something and he encouraged me to play everything so we went that route. I’m really glad we did because it has been a wonderful experience so far.

Do you have a favorite song that you enjoy playing live?
I love “Birds Fly Away.” Actually, each song is unique and they all have a specific role in the set. I really wanted to bring the listener on a journey when they listen to the set. I always think its best when you hear it from beginning to end because it goes into different spectrums of the musical language I use. “Birds Fly Away” is a really good song. I like playing “Hi-Low” a lot too, that’s probably the most complicated song I play, it’s a fun song to play too.

How long did it take to put together your live show?
I completed my rig after the record was mixed, so that was in March and then I really went into rehearsing a lot and then I hit the road. I spent maybe a month completing the show, but then it took a long time of playing to really get in my body. I would make a lot of mistakes in the beginning, I would be really nervous, but maybe those mistakes were something that I recognized. To me, I’ve reached the point where it’s really a musical instrument to me. It’s just another way of playing songs and playing music. I want the audience to really feel like they’re in the music and not worry so much about, “Oh my God is she going to fall or step on the wrong pedal?”

What is your typical songwriting process?
Well, I found a new way of writing on this record. I thi
nk because I started with thi
s looping thing, I started thinking of music in different ways. It sort of broke me out of my habits a little bit. So I decided to do the same thing for my writing. I started collecting ideas for a long time and I would spend a lot of time just working on melodies first and singing little snippets of stuff and not be so judgmental with myself and just collect ideas and go back and listen to them again. And not try to finish stuff and just be playful and have fun with it.

I would really be inspired by different textures of things. I see music in colors and textures a lot. So, I might sit and look at this board behind us here and try to sing that or I would draw something and try to sing it and make a melody out of something I was drawing, just to break my mind out of its normal habits. And I found that it was a really enjoyable process and it took the pressure off somehow. It was really playful and in the end, I think I gave myself more freedom and the end result is a lot more pleasing to me. It also felt like definitely my most personal songs on this record as a whole, the fact that I wrote all the music and I explored all these different ideas. It was very exciting.

I love your song “Japanese Art.”
Tobias actually wrote the lyrics to that song. He sat in my kitchen and I have a book about Japanese Art and he looked at it and he just started flowing. We’re both from Gotland, so we had to put Gotland in there and we both travel a lot. It was a little bit of a whimsical song, but it definitely plays up the joyfulness of that song. That’s what I was trying to do, I was trying to write music that would say something and then the lyrics would fall in place. I didn’t write any of the lyrics on this record. Tobias wrote a few of the lyrics and then I worked with a female poet from New Orleans, Jessica Faust. She’s phenomenal. She’s actually a professor at UNO. And I had asked her to help me find some female poets and she gave me some of her own poetry and I was floored. I cried when I read it and it moved me so much. I asked her if she’d be interested in trying to do something like this. I gave her finished melodies and asked her to write words to fit my melodies. It couldn’t have been easy, but she did a great job. I feel like it came out of me, she did such a great job.

Do you have a favorite city to play?
I love playing in New York. I love it! It’s always fun here. Sometimes you just stumble on places and you have a magical night. It depends on all the circumstances too. I played in Milwaukee opening for Mason Jennings and it was a wonderful show, I really loved the audience there. The other night I went to Knoxville, Tennessee, to play a radio show and ended up playing a benefit that night and that was a great experience too. I like New York because it’s a very diverse crowd; it changes every time I come.

What can fans expect from your next album?
I feel like I’ve really found myself and really arrived here with this album. I really think that all the time that I’ve lived in New Orleans combined with me letting all my Swedish influences and my Swedish roots come back out is something that I really enjoy and I’m going to keep working on that. I’m very influenced by New Orleans rhythms as you can hear on “Birds Fly Away,” I’ve even sample Smokey Johnson on there. I’m going to keep working on that. I’m also going to keep working on my textures. I have some big ideas in my head and I’m going to play around with it around Christmas time.

Is your showcase at CMJ different than the typical concert?
My show is so intense that unfortunately, for me to put something new in the show, it’s hard to do unless I have some serious rehearsal time. In the past, I could just get together with the band and do a two-hour rehearsal and then be able to play that. I actually have to get into rehearsal space with all my gear, do a couple days of rehearsing and I haven’t had the luxury of that. My show is pretty much worked out. Of course no one knows how tonight’s going to happen. I am excited because I know there are a lot of special guests in the audience that are invited by my publicists so that’s going to be nice but of course I’m a little bit nervous. I want to make a good impression. In New Orleans you don’t get so much of that, you don’t get so much industry and you don’t have high pressure situations all the time. It’s been challenging to be in those situations to really have to bring my super A-game every time I perform. But, I love challenges and I love to step up. I’m just hoping to make the audience feel like they’re able to step into my world tonight with everything else that’s been going on.

You’ve been getting some great press. Rolling Stone featured you recently.
Yes! I know, I’m so excited! When I started this record, I really erased any kind of ideas of wanting to fit into a format or trying to be something or have a specific sound, any of that stuff, just out of my mind. None of that. I really tried to just make a record that I could be proud of and a record that was personal and real from the heart.

And, I think when you listen to Hummingbird, Go! you’ll agree. For more on Theresa, be sure to check out her MySpace and see when she’s playing a tour nearby. It will surely be a unique performance you will never forget.

Concert Reviews Festivals

Transcendent Canadians The Dears Capture Hiro Ballroom

Orchestral. Dynamic. Atmospheric. I’m not really sure how to best explain the show I saw Thursday night featuring Canadian indie-pop band the Dears. It’s one of those sets that you just have to watch, taking in the entire experience. The band, literally a few feet in front of me, had the audience intently listening to every word sung and every chord played, some dancing, some singing along, some making out.

Taking the stage shortly after 8:30 p.m., the Dears entered Hiro Ballroom while their first song of the night, “Disclaimer,” was playing over the loudspeakers. Seconds later, each band member picked up their respective instrument and chimed in. The group’s musically rich set seemingly took the audience into a trance with the blue and green lighting only adding to the distinctive aura surrounding the room.

Categorized on MySpace as Other/Other/Other, it is hard to place the Dears into one specific genre of music. Natalia Yanchak, one of the group’s core members, describes their music as “Orchestral Pop. Boom.” However, even this portrayal doesn’t seem sufficient. Either way, the crowd loved them.

Most of the Dears’ set was comprised of songs from latest album, Missiles, including “Money Babies,” “Berlin Heart” and the beautifully angelic “Crisis 1 & 2” as well as some older obvious fan favorites by the way the crowd was dancing around me.

Clearly experts at a festival like CMJ, Yanchak said this year was their fourth time playing CMJ. “CMJ was the first music festival outside Canada we’d ever played, but that was back in 2000,” she says. “Compared to other festivals, the shows at CMJ are more like regular gigs rather than big, organized showcases. Our gig was kind of like that . . . part of CMJ but more like our own gig.”

The Dears have been around for quite some time. When asked about their longevity, Yanchak says, “It’s really a spirit that lives on. We’ve had over a dozen musicians come and go, then some return, and leave again.” She continued. “The Dears really is about the moment, about an incarnation, and connecting with musicians that are able to channel the music. As long as the inspiration keeps coming to Murray [Lightburn], The Dears will remain.”

As for her favorite song to perform, Yanchak says, “It really depends on the moment, the vibe in the room and on stage. I can’t predict that until the show is happening. But I’ve been loving playing all the songs in our set.”

Many have talked of their latest album as being a major transformation from their previous releases, but Yanchak says every release is an evolution and progression to another place. “Missiles definitely falls into this pattern of growth. That said, there’s something innocent and brutally honest about this album that was missing on Gang of Losers. Just a journey, like life, choosing a path and trying along the way to stay true to who you are.”

As for her best advice to festivalgoers, Yanchak suggested planning ahead, but leaving room for spontaneity. “Festivals are always about heading out to see one thing, bumping randomly into people and ending up somewhere else. Also don’t just go see all the familiar bands. It’s always fun to discover something new, so be open to that.”

And I have to agree. I discovered the Dears Thursday night and it definitely was a transcendent experience to a genre of music I probably wouldn’t have covered if not for CMJ. So, thank you, CMJ, and thanks to the Dears.

You can read this post originally posted on the CMJ blog here.

Special thanks to Wendy Hu for the amazing photos!


CMJ Wrap-Up

This is my last post about CMJ . . . for this year at least! Hopefully next year I’ll be able to attend again and cover even more shows for the blog. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the official CMJ blog here. There are many great posts from all of the UWire correspondents, including myself, and tons of interesting things went on last week so read all about it!

Feel free to check out my preview on Virginia-based band Ki: Theory here. You can also read my coverage of two panels I attended: Web 2.0, Music 2.0, and the Blog Factor, which the title pretty must sums up and Gadgets for Tweakheads and the next big thing, again pretty self-explanatory.

I still have one review to finish up as well as transcribe my interview with Theresa Andersson so be on the lookout for those. I’ll be interviewing Hellogoodbye and Ace Enders next week as well, so if you have any questions for either feel free to email me or leave some comments! Should be a great week! Also, don’t forget not to make any plans for next Saturday and come out to Maxwell’s for an awesome night of music! I’ll post another banner this weekend to remind you. Thanks for reading!