Photo of the Week: Gaslight Anthem

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

From the moment the Gaslight Anthem took the stage at New York City’s Irving Plaza the energy in the room skyrocketed. The day of their record release for new album American Slang, the New Jersey quartet demonstrated what a rock show should be. As fans clapped along at the right moment on every song, singing word for word and creating havoc by dancing and crowd-surfing in a mosh pit on the floor, the excitement of the sold-out show was evident.

For my complete review with additional photos, visit Venus Zine.

Concert Reviews

Gaslight Anthem at Radio City: A Review

Photo Credit: Tony Cano

New Jersey favorites the Gaslight Anthem packed Radio City Music Hall Thursday night for a marathon set of nearly two hours. While the band showcased songs from their entire catalogue, their gratitude to fans was apparent as frontman Brian Fallon continually thanked fans when he could find the words.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Radio City went dark while “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played through the speakers. The band took the stage to screaming fans and powered through “High Lonesome,” “Boxer,” “We Came to Dance” and “The Diamond Church Street Choir,” an impressive variety of songs from their three full length albums before Fallon addressed the crowd for the first time.

“Radio City. We started playing in basements. Elvis might even show up. I know we’re in New York, but I imagine New Jersey is represented in the crowd tonight.”

For the complete review, visit BumperShine.

Related Links:
You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Concerts of 2009
Band of the Week: Gaslight Anthem
Five Albums to Prolong Your Summer
All Points West: Music, Mud Wrestling, and Beer Gardens

Band of the Week

Band of the Week: Titus Andronicus

Earlier today, I came across a Tumblr post by Titus Andronicus’ guitarist and violinist Amy Klein. Titled “Tour Diary Day Four: Rock and Roll Is Dead,” Klein writes about the way women are perceived in the media and music industry. Being the only female in indie rock band Titus Andronicus, she’s had her fair share of experiences and insults thrown her way. On Saturday, she wrote a powerful post after she dissected the latest issue of Rolling Stone, and asked why females are left out of the discussion and coverage of rock & roll.

“What we’re doing when we exclude women from rock and roll, and from the sense of rebellion that rock and roll promises, is disallowing women that independent perspective. We’re never giving them the chance to think critically about the world, and about the systems that oppress them. When we take women out of the arts, and take them out of art’s ability to critique the way things are, we’re making sure that women keep swallowing the status quo, day after day, and it’s the status quo that keeps us down,” she writes.

An insightful read, her entry got me thinking. Having recently read Pat Benatar’s memoir and learned of all the hardships she went through being a female in the industry in the 80s — 30 years later, why aren’t more women being showcased for their talent?

It’s musicians like Klein who leave an impact. One fifth of Titus Andronicus, her violin interludes are an intriguing addition to the punk rock outfit. With countless Bruce Springsteen and Jersey mentions in their songs, (see “A More Perfect Union”) the New Jersey based band has been garnering praise from music publications everywhere. Their popularity only seems fitting, because their songs embody a certain punk urgency that hasn’t been heard in years. And with Klein’s passion about women in rock, one can only wonder what her influence on future albums will hold.

While slower songs like “No Future Part One” showcases their more serious side, it’s tracks like the fast paced “Titus Andronicus” that brings to mind the beginning of the punk era. Complete with heavy percussion and relentless vocals, Titus Andronicus impress.

For more on Titus Andronicus, be sure to visit them on MySpace and check out the video for “A More Perfect Union” below. Definitely give Amy’s Tumblr a read. I’d love to know your thoughts.

A More Perfect Union,t=1,mt=video
Titus Andronicus | MySpace Music Videos

Concert Reviews

The Gaslight Anthem Celebrates New Record Across State Lines

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

From the moment the Gaslight Anthem took the stage at New York City’s Irving Plaza last Tuesday, the energy in the room skyrocketed. The day of their record release for new album American Slang, the New Jersey quartet demonstrated what a rock show should be. As fans clapped along at the right moment on every song, singing word for word and creating havoc by dancing and crowd-surfing in a mosh pit on the floor, the excitement of the sold-out show was evident.

For my complete review with additional photos, visit Venus Zine.


Val Emmich

Last week, I covered New Jersey based singer-songwriter Val Emmich’s acoustic set at Turtle Club in Hoboken. Before and during the show he took fan requests. Emmich said with six albums, it’s often difficult to teach his full band each individual song. “For these acoustic shows, I feel like I need to pay back my fans and play what they want to hear.”

Afterward, we chatted about his songwriting process, life at Rutgers, and how his acting roles on hit television shows like “Ugly Betty” and “30 Rock” influence his life. Read on to find out how the former American Studies major got his start in music and advice he has for you. Be sure to visit Val Emmich on MySpace and stay tuned for a new album in the upcoming months.

What is your songwriting process like?
The songwriting process for this album was a lot different. Previously, I would usually find myself in some mood. Frustrated, sad or hyper, I would pick up a guitar or set up a piano and it would come out in some way. Then, I would sing a melody that came to me naturally and work on lyrics. It usually happened in that way; music, melody, lyrics. In this case, I worked with this production team called Near Records. We just sat there and co-wrote together. I’d sit at the piano or someone would play guitar and I’d sing. It was fun for me because it got me out of my own head. Being a solo artist can sometimes have its limitations. It’s also very freeing because no one’s saying no to you.

You went to Woodstock by yourself to write a few albums ago. Do you find it better to be by yourself?
I guess it’s an ongoing search. At that moment, let’s call it a bad breakup with my record company. So, I needed to find what I loved about music again and find a rebirth. I really did feel like a child going away to learn from square one. It was really liberating. I would just sit there. I woke up in the morning, drank coffee and wrote whatever came to me. I know I wrote songs alone there with no distractions that I would have never written anywhere else and couldn’t write today because I was putting myself in that situation. I was lonely. I was isolated. I had a big beard. I was unkempt and I just feel like I had nothing to do but write, and it made me feel safe to write.

I think it’s about finding new challenges and new ways to get you out of your habits because I think you could become predictable. Often, people like first albums of people and then they think they went off. I think it’s hard to keep it fresh. This new album was the same thing. I tried to come up with a new process.

You’ve been in a bunch of TV shows including “Ugly Betty” and “30 Rock.” Do any of those experiences find their way into your songs?
Into the songs, no, but into me as a person. Anytime you can meet new people. Today I met this guy who was talking like he had a frog in his throat. I was just obsessed with his voice. Maybe a year down the line, some voice lyric will come. Or a character in fiction I write. I just feel like you should be open to life. The TV stuff, it puts me in touch with fear because I’m always scared when I do those things and I’m meeting new people and they’re used to what they’re doing and I’m the newcomer. But it’s a challenge. It makes me feel alive.

Some of your songs come across as being sad, but the music is often upbeat. Why is that?
On my last record, I wanted to try to do it all by myself with literally no one else. The Woodstock stuff, Sunlight Searchparty, I wrote by myself but then played it live for the band. For Little Daggers, I did it by myself in my bedroom. I wanted no one else to get in my head. I sent a bunch of songs to a producer friend of mine, Jason Cupp and he said, “What I like about these songs is that they sound happy, but they’re kind of sad. The good ones. You should get rid of these and focus on these other ones that have that weird juxtaposition.” He pointed it out to me. That was intentional, but it was something that came out naturally.

I love your song “Hurt More Later.” What was the inspiration behind it?
I think it’s so joyous to get into a relationship even when you have a feeling, “I don’t think this girl is the right one for me ultimately. But it feels good now. I kind of feel like she’s a cheater maybe or she’s not being totally honest. But, we have a good chemistry and the sex is good.” So, you let yourself go even though you know you’re going to hurt more later. That was the feeling I was trying to capture. Throw caution to the wind.

What’s going through your head when you’re performing? I noticed you close your eyes a lot.
Not always. This was a peculiar situation where people are right there and I didn’t have a stage. Usually when you’re on a stage and the lights are there, you’re shielded a little bit and you see nothing and that helps to open up. I did go into my own shell today.

My thoughts wander and I try to follow them if I feel like a lyric hits me and I’m angry I go with it. Or, if I feel hyper I let my body do it. I’m just trying to find a new way of enjoying it. This sounds so crazy, but I just thought [performing] does remind me of sex where someone will do something and you’re like, “Oh wow. Woah, I never thought of that. Let me do that,” and you follow the feeling just because it feels good. Same thing onstage. You’re like, “I’m going to go over here. Woah.” It’s about being open to that and I think some people are too scripted and they get into routines and they don’t feel spontaneous onstage.

Do you feel a song comes out better when it’s based on real life, or do you draw from fantasy as well?
Both. There are literal songs where this literally happened. “Shock,” a song about deceit literally happened and I just wrote what happened, my blatant feelings. There are other ones that I take an emotion and I let it wander. I find that the ones that aren’t bound to truth are usually more interesting. It’s just like acting. If you go for a role as a killer, do people assume you’re a killer? No. You just feel like, “Oh, I’ve felt anger before. I’ve felt out of control before. I can imagine taking the next step and killing. If I could just think there.” It’s the same thing with songwriting. If I feel sad I can sometimes make myself feel sadder in songs. Who wants to hear a lukewarm song? You want to hear the most extreme feeling you can and the most potent.

I went to Rutgers also so it’s always nice to see fellow alumni succeed at what they love. What was your background there?
Sometimes I wish I went to the Fine Arts school there, Mason Gross. Part of me is artistic and part of me is really cerebral and I like factoids and more scholastic stuff. [My major was] American Studies. It’s a focus on America in all different facets. So it’s history, literature, economics, politics. So many people just get a narrow focus. They only major in politics or only major in economics. I get it all, so it’s probably a metaphor of me as a person just trying to be well rounded. Someone important in my life always tells me I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. Which, she doesn’t really mean as a compliment I don’t think. But, I do like to dabble. Maybe I’d be better off just focusing on one thing and being excel
lent at it. At Rutgers I did
the same thing, I minored in English and minored in Philosophy because I just wanted it all. I still want it all.

What’s your advice to aspiring singers?
I followed what I wanted to do. Luckily my parents weren’t the kind of parents where I came home and they said, “American Studies. What job are you going to get with that?” They supported the music I wanted to do so I was fortunate in that way. If you have a bunch of people telling you “No,” it’s a lot harder. Another person in my life found me in college and said, “I really think you’ve got something here,” and it made me believe I could do music. I really believe the nurturing of art and artists is important, which is why I always try to talk to people and answer emails because you never know when your email might be the thing that they go, “Maybe I could do this.”

My inspiration: surround yourself with people who make you believe. A friend from Rutgers was here tonight who I haven’t seen since Rutgers and he said, “It makes me feel comforted that you’re still doing what you love.” And I got what he meant. I’d be upset if some of my friends stopped doing what they love. I would lose faith. I feel like you just take examples from other people and if I’m an example to someone, then that’s an amazing thing.


Gaslight Anthem Unveil “American Slang”

Yesterday, Jersey favorites The Gaslight Anthem released their first single and title track to their upcoming release, American Slang. Produced by Ted Hutt (producer of their second album, The ’59 Sound) the highly anticipated third album from the band is due in stores June 15.

Rolling Stone spoke with frontman Brian Fallon a while back and he talked of the album. “The songs sound like Tom Waits’ storytelling and the Clash playing as a band, but with some big Motown-style choruses in there.”

Longtime fans will be happy to know the band hasn’t abandoned their Jersey roots and sound. Their vivid lyrics combined with Fallon’s vocals and guitar and percussion intensity on “American Slang” are enough to keep fans anxiously awaiting their June release.

You can listen to “American Slang” on MySpace and Facebook. The complete track listing and lyrics for American Slang are below:

1. American Slang
2. Stay Lucky
3. Bring It On
4. The Diamond Church Street Choir
5. The Queen of Lower Chelsea
6. Orphans
7. Boxer
8. Old Haunts
9. The Spirit Of Jazz
10. We Did It When We Were Young

“American Slang”

Look what you started,
I seem to be coming out of my skin.
Look what you’ve forgotten here.
The bandages just don’t keep me in.

and when it was over, I woke up alone.

and they cut me to ribbons and taught me to drive.
I got your name tattooed inside of my arm.
I called for my father but my father had died.
while you told me fortunes, in American Slang.

Look at the damage,
the fortunes came for the richer men.
while we’re left with gallows,
waiting for us liars to come down and hang.

and here’s where we died that time last year,
and here’s where the angels and devils meet.
and you can dance with the queen if you need,
and she will always keep your cards close to her heart.
before they tear you apart.

What do you think? Is American Slang an album you will be buying?

Related Links:
You Sing, I Write’s Top 5 Concerts of 2009
Band of the Week: Gaslight Anthem
Five Albums to Prolong Your Summer
All Points West : Music, Mud Wrestling, and Beer Gardens

Song of the Week Videos

Song of the Week: “Great Expectations”

Last night I witnessed Jersey’s own Gaslight Anthem firsthand at a packed Terminal 5 in New York. Definitely the most energetic crowd I have yet witnessed at a concert, fans started a mosh pit even before frontman Brian Fallon sang his first lyric. Performing for over an hour, the band showcased many songs from their most recent and revered release, The ’59 Sound as well as older classics from debut album, Sink or Swim and EP, Señor and the Queen.

While the audience showed their appreciation singing word for word, it was the band that looked in awe watching the craziness taking place on the floor as fans crowd surfed and moshed during most of the set. Having performed well over 300 concerts this year alone, the band’s current tour is winding down as they work on new material for The ’59 Sound‘s follow up. Rolling Stone reports the release is expected next year as Fallon stated in the issue, “The songs sound like Tom Waits’ storytelling and the Clash playing as a band, but with some big Motown-style choruses in there.” A must-see act, the Gaslight Anthem have a bright future ahead of them.

Watch the video below for “Great Expectations,” and for music and tour dates visit them on MySpace.


Related Links:
Band of the Week: Gaslight Anthem
Five Albums to Prolong Your Summer
All Points West : Music, Mud Wrestling, and Beer Gardens
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Giants Stadium Night One Recap


Gaslight Anthem Tonight At Terminal 5!

I’ve been following the Gaslight Anthem for a while now. In fact, it was just around this time last year that I stumbled on their feature in Rolling Stone, realizing I knew one of the members from working on the newspaper, The Daily Targum, together at Rutgers. To say they’ve blown up since then is an understatement. By far the hardest band to get an interview with or cover, you’d think it would be easier since I know one of the members.

Gaslight Anthem have been selling out venues throughout the US as well as abroad, even sharing the stage with Bruce Springsteen (see video below). I’m psyched to be catching their show tonight with some former Targum friends. A lot has changed since college, that’s for sure!

Follow along with me at the show tonight via Twitter.


Related Links:
Band of the Week: Gaslight Anthem
Five Albums to Prolong Your Summer
All Points West : Music, Mud Wrestling, and Beer Gardens
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Giants Stadium Night One Recap

Concert Reviews

Panic at the Disco, Dashboard Confessional Co-Headline Rock Band Live Tour in New Jersey

The Rock Band Live tour hit New Jersey Sunday with a versatile line-up and even more diverse crowd. From the tween girls screaming, “I love you Brendon!” at Panic at the Disco’s frontman Brendon Urie to the inebriated 21+ group jumping and dancing along during Dashboard Confessional’s set, the night offered something for everyone.

Panic at the Disco, the obvious crowd favorites, closed the night at the Prudential Center in Newark with an hour-long set energizing all in the audience. Taking the stage with their signature song, “We’re So Starving,” Urie crooned to the audience, “Oh, how it’s been so long/We’re so sorry we’ve been gone/We were busy writing songs for you.” The audience accepted his apology wholeheartedly — throwing their hands in the air and singing along word for word.

Panic’s 13-song set consisted of radio hits, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” “Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off,” and “Nine In the Afternoon.” Whether Urie was running from one side of the stage to the other singing to the crowd or alternating between playing guitar, piano and drums he kept the audience on their feet with the help of his bandmates. Closing the show with Little Richard’s “You Make Me Wanna Shout,” Panic at the Disco had the crowd feeding off their performance and energy until well after the lights came back on, signaling that the long-awaited Jersey stop was officially over.

Co-headliner Dashboard Confessional took the stage before Panic, frontman Chris Carrabba wooing the crowd with his onstage banter and heartfelt lyrics. Playing hits like “Vindicated,” “Thick as Thieves,” and “Screaming Infidelities,” which he prefaced with a question. “Should we do a love song? Like, an ‘I hate my ex’ kind of song?” to which screams erupted throughout the venue. “Mike hates her too. She’s both our exes.” Then Carrabba began the song alone on piano before the rest of the band joined in.

Possible favorites of Dashboard’s set seemed to be a tie between infamous hit, “Hands Down” and a surprising cover of Pink’s current radio hit, “So What.” Previous performers the Cab re-entered the stage and helped out on their rendition of Pink’s song. The energy in the room skyrocketed and it’s quite impressive the way Carrabba hit the high notes.

What differentiates the Rock Band Live tour from your typical concert is that in between each performer’s set change the crowd gets involved playing “Rock Band” instead of just sitting or standing awaiting the next band to take the stage. Between the Plain White T’s and Dashboard’s set Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” and Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Give It Away” were played, amping the audience for the next band taking the stage.

Plain White T’s played an eight-song set of their fan favorites including their Grammy-nominated hit “Hey There Delilah” as well as “Our Time Now” and newest singles “Natural Disaster” and “1, 2, 3, 4” off of their latest release, Big Bad World. Their set was the most laid-back of the night and they had the audience waving their cell phones and lighters in the air for “1, 2, 3, 4.” As their set closed, frontman Tom Higgenson jumped into the crowd hugging fans and shaking hands throughout the venue while the rest of the band members exited the stage. Not your typical gesture, fans positioned in the front of the arena got a very personal concert experience and walked away from a night they will most likely never forget.

Las Vegas-based band The Cab and New York natives Lights Resolve began the night with a half-hour set each. Definitely a lively set from both bands, whether jumping around the stage and having the crowd bounce to their song — aptly titled “Bounce” (in the Cab’s case) or wowing the audience with their signature “wuh-uh-uh-oh-uh-oh-oh” and catc
hy choruses (Lights Resolve) both bands show much promise. And, who knows, in a few years they might be co-headlining the tour together.

Check out more of Wendy Hu’s amazing photos from Sunday night here.

Band of the Week

Band of the Week: The Gaslight Anthem

It’s one of those moments you never imagine happening. You open up Rolling Stone and see someone’s band you know being featured within the pages of the magazine. So surreal. That’s what happened to me last week when I was flipping through the October 2nd issue of Rolling Stone. I turned to the “Breaking” section and did a double take. Low and behold, there was Benny from Targum (the former night pro manager of Rutgers University’s daily newspaper, The Daily Targum).

It’s funny, actually, from the countless hours I spent night editing during my four years working at the newspaper, I knew he was in a band, but didn’t know the name of it or that he played the drums. But, I couldn’t be happier turning the page and reading the raving review of their latest album, The ’59 Sound. This is what Rolling Stone contributing editor, Christian Hoard had to say about the album:

The ’59 Sound [is] the New Jersey quartet’s excellent second album, a collection of tuneful, passionately sung stories about working-class folks and young romance . . . Though the Gaslight Anthem are signed to the SoCal punk label SideOneDummy and they regularly open for mohawked acts, their sound is only sort of punk: It’s more like a supercharged version of early Bruce records or a no-frills take on the Replacements.”

Many reviews have been comparing the Jersey-based band to fellow Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen. While I definitely hear the influence of The Boss, there’s something more. Their music is catchy and you can listen to each story within every song while rocking out to the solid drum beat and guitar accompaniment. Like Hoard wrote, it has that punk feel to it, but also a mix of that classic Springsteen sound. In fact, it’s hard to pin the Gaslight Anthem down to one genre, which for a band is often a good thing. Watch their video below for “The ’59 Sound” and see for yourself.


If you like what you heard, be sure to check them out on MySpace and let me know what you think!
For more of the Rolling Stone feature and video on the Gaslight Anthem, click here.