Saturday, April 28, 2012

4/16/12: The Studio at Webster Hall: Fair to Midland/Dead Letter Circus

The last time I went to Webster Hall to see a show, it was the main stage where Evanescence headlined the Nintendo Fusion Tour with Cold, Revis, and Finger Eleven playing almost 9 years ago.

This time, I went to the Studio at Webster Hall, the main venue's side stage, for what would become the most diverse show I've ever seen.

The show started with a New York City area band called Ever Forthright. Ever Forthright is a djent metal band. For those that don't know what djent is, it's an experimental guitar heavy genre, chock full of solos and tricky time signatures.

Lead singer Chris Barretto is a djent metal veteran who had a stint doing lead vocals for Periphery before Spencer Sotelo took the job.

Their show was chaotic, but awesome all the same. It was hard to tell what kind of band they were at first...after all, they had a sax on stage (which they wound up not using). They let us know very early on. Through all of that djent-y goodness, there was actually a soft side. Chris Barretto went all Usher on a song called "City Limits". Their music may be more random than your run of the mill Family Guy episode, but somehow their tangential genre-bending riffage worked out well enough to be a worthy opener.

Next on the lineup was Jolly, yet another New York City area band I was unaware of before the show. This band sounded a lot different from what I was expecting from a band named Jolly. Sure, it was catchy, but there was quite a bit of moroseness...almost a HIM vibe from listening to this band. The band's sound was a bit all over the place from the softness of the harmonies and keys on songs like "Joy" and "Where Everything's Perfect" to "The Pattern", a six-minute opus that flirts with djent metal at its climax and the highlight of their set.

Speaking of tangents, one of the highlights of the entire show (in a show that had many) was the Maryland band Lionize that had a completely different sound than any of the acts on the bill. Their sound is very similar to that of Clutch. Their sound had a bit of funk, stoner rock, dub rock, and dirty south blues all wrapped in one. Their set was extremely impressive on me and I would certainly see them again if they came back up to the city anytime soon. Nate Bergman's vocals were showstopping.

That leads me to the awesome Aussies known as Dead Letter Circus, a band that is pretty massive in Australia that had their first NYC stop ever. They did not disappoint, playing songs from This Is The Warning, such as their first American single "One Step" and my personal favorite "Here We Divide". Lead singer Kim Benzie's falsetto is similar to Matt Bellamy of Muse or Anthony Green of Circa Survive, but Benzie does it with such ease live that it's hard to compare him to anyone else. Just last week, I found out that they released a new single off of their upcoming album called "Wake Up" in their native Australia and I'm waiting with baited breath to listen to it. Hopefully, we will all be able to hear it soon.

Finally, we got to watch the Texas fable rockers Fair to Midland and if you've never seen what their live show is like, it can be summed up in three words: Darroh is nuts. Lead singer Darroh Sudderth is a few fries short of a happy meal, but the fans love him for it because he and the band give off such energy and want their fans to feed off of it.

It's not about being perfect note for note, it's about giving the fans what they want. In some cases, what they want is Darroh inflicting ruckus on the crowd...and that he did, jumping into the crowd time after time. The fans went into a frenzy by the time they played "Tall Tales Taste Like Sour Grapes" crowd surfing, pit-forming, and all around having a blast. Their set was similar to the DVD they released of their incredible set at the world famous Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan. When they closed with "Rikki Tikki Tavi", they did so with authority. Darroh jumped into the crowd, just about fell on his face when he was launched back on the stage and let out a big "RRRRRIKKKKKIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!". And just like that, the set and the show was over, but not without the chaotic cheering of the crowd.

The show was as random and as chaotic as I've ever seen, but every band was up to the task. Every band put on their A-game and it showed throughout the night. Man, I miss going to live shows.

Death of a Kiss.

This marks the last weekend of the legendary urban adult contemporary station 98.7 WRKS-FM (Kiss-FM) in New York City.

Emmis Communications announced a sale of the station to ESPN Radio that set off a chain reaction of events. Kiss' legacy will live on, merging with 107.5 WBLS-FM and ESPN Radio will take over 98.7.

In the biggest music market in the world, two of the city's major FM stations will not play music and many of the major ones that do are mere carbon copies of each other.

Z100 and Now 92.3 FM are both pop stations that copy much of the same music and both of those stations tend to play a lot of the songs found on Hot 97 and Power 105.1FM, both urban (R&B/hip hop) stations and some of the songs from those stations leak into WPLJ 95.5FM and WKTU 103.5FM, an adult top 40 station and a dance station, respectively.

Songs in our market tend to be super crossovers. They not only cross over on stations that they would traditionally be played on if it were successful, but those songs then oversaturate radio with remixes both for easy listening stations and/or dance stations. By the way, if I start hearing Pitbull on Lite FM, I'm done.

EVERY SINGLE STATION here winds up sounding the same because of those super crossovers. Even some of the Spanish/Spanglish stations in the market tend to play the most popular songs on English pop and rap stations.

You would think that the biggest music market of the world would play music that's on the cutting edge, no matter the format, but this market is home to radio stations that play most vapid, lifeless, and safe music in the country and this is when you consider that terrestrial radio is still the #1 medium for discovering new music.

I'm not upset that ESPN made the move to FM radio as ESPN's radio programming is dynamic and engaging. However, to do it at the expense of one of the better stations in the market was a bad idea. Cheers to Kiss and here's hoping the legacy of the station lives on with WBLS.