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Left Alone – Left Alone – CD Review

Street punk shows it has a nicer side thanks to Left Alone, a Wilmington, CA act on their latest self-titled album Left Alone released through Hellcat Records.  On the band’s third release they continue to play street punk material but incorporate elements of pop punk, reggae, and ska making for a real fun listen.

Opening track “Spiked With Pain” was a full punk rock track with sing along abilities and guitar and bass riffs suggestive of Rancid.  There is a reason why this band was signed to Hellcat and perhaps Tim Armstrong enjoyed the similarities of Left Alone and the band he fronts.

“Branded” follows with the same energy as the first track with front man Elvis Cortez’s raspy voice just appealing to my ears.  As if that was not good enough, the bass lines were sick throughout and overall the song is just screaming to be released as a single.

Almost sounding like the Madness meets Operation Ivy was the brisk “Sad Story” with a more ska approach that is easily likable and surly makes you want to skank away.  The song was easily one of my favorites on the entire CD.  See below for the music video of the song.  Good stuff.

The catchy “3 Bottles Of Wine” and “Porcelain” both seem more pop punk tracks. They seem to escape the street punk image held by the band but still are enjoyable for what they are worth.

“Bombs Away” sounding a lot like The Clash’s “Police And Thieves” carries on just fine as the song is not a direct rip off but more so a compliment to the UK grandfathers of punk.  “Brindle” starts off with a strong bass line that strays right into a fast paced track sure to be a hit at one of their live shows as it makes you want to swing your arms and dance around carelessly.

I loved “Self Made” with the more so 90s punk feel and an organ playing in the background.  “Wishing Well” continued that feeling with a simple yet catchy punk track with some group vocals.  These are the kinds of songs that turned me into a punk rock fan in the first place.

It’s nice to see a band like Left Alone not label themselves as one specific genre of music and experiment with their talent.  This album is full of tracks with sing along qualities that span back to their previous releases but add a more fine tuned effort making for a good listen if you find yourself a fan of punk rock.

Left Alone is far from a commercial pop punk act and thanks to their recent release they should be grabbing some attention.  Perhaps it is a good thing they stay away from the mainstream though as they have too much talent to be considered just another pop-punk act out there.  Having already been fans of their previous releases Lonely Starts and Broken Hearts and Dead American Radio I can honestly say this CD is just as good of a listen if not better.

Download This! – Left Alone – “Sad Story”
Download This! – Left Alone – “3 Bottles Of Wine

(I would totally let the girls in this video kick my ass)

Those Darlins, The Dexateens, The Features – Grog Shop – Cleveland , OH – 05/19/09 – Concert Review

It’s no surprise that all who attended the Grog Shop last Tuesday night to see Those Darlins, The Dexateens, and The Features had a blast.  The sad thing though was the turnout for the evening and with tickets only $8 I really expected a bigger turnout.  Nevertheless all the acts that night played just as hard as they would to a full crowd and I along with the handful of fans got our money’s worth.

Arriving early I had a picture perfect moment when Those Darlins came rounding the sidewalk outside of the Grog Shop.  Clearly the ladies decided to check out their surroundings on a possible quest get a bite to eat and were returning to work.  Respecting their privacy I kept the camera down and shyly smiled at them as they walked in the doors of the venue.  I laughed when one of them screamed “blech!” as a Radiohead song greeted them when they entered.  Not everyone can be a Radiohead fan I guess…

A couple of months ago Those Darlins had their first taste of Cleveland when they opened for Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys at a sold out show at the Beachland Ballroom.  A nice size crowd greeted them as they took the stage.  Sadly their return to Cleveland to play again had a crowd that barely made it to twenty.  Still the sassy ladies of Tennessee did not let the lack of attendees kill their spirit and started playing through their songs at full force.

Ripping through tracks from their upcoming self-titled debut release Those Darlins played just as good, if not better, as the first time I saw them.  Hearing “The Whole Damn Thing” cracked me up as the ladies sang about getting drunk and eating chicken.  Other tracks like “DUI or Die”, “Snaggletooth Mama”, and “Wild One” seemed to get some of the folk sitting at the bar to turn their heads and pay attention to the three country cuties up on stage.  Their mustache wearing drummer even had a moment when one of the toms on his kit fell off while playing.  All of the girls laughed mid-song and continued to stomp their boots and play hard.  Ripping through a nice sized set I could not help myself from getting excited when their album is delivered to my front door (I pre-ordered it).

I am sure Those Darlins were a tad frustrated with the small amount of people at the Grog Shop seeing they drove all the way up to play out, but thanks to their great set they won a few new fans and I am sure the next time they return to Cleveland there will be a much bigger crowd waiting to see them.  I’ll do what I can to make sure that happens.

Not knowing the two other bands I decided to stick it out and see what each had to offer.  Alabama’s The Dexateens took stage and it seemed like a few more people actually surrounded the stage as they played including the mustache clad drummer of Those Darlins.  Some of the fans looked to have been friends of the band but still, fans are fans.  The band’s mix of southern rock and folk really won me over and I made sure to pick up one of their vinyl albums from the merch booth just so I could check them out more.

The main act of the night, The Features, took stage to a very small welcoming crowd including a handful of folk who traveled all the way from Erie, PA just to see them.  The Tennessee indie rock band played well but was not what I was looking for so I called it a night.

As I headed to the door I spotted Kelley Darlin sitting at the bar with one of the guys who works at the vintage shop below the Beachland Ballroom called This Way Out.  I did not want to pass up the opportunity to thank her for playing Cleveland again and also wanted to tell her that she would be seeing me at Bonnaroo in less than a month.  Kelley Darlin smiled from ear to ear and give me a high-five / handshake / hold hands type response that had me smiling too.  She was a real pleasure to meet and I hope to see her again next month.

Yes, I have a crush on all three Darlins.  So what!?!

I really wish that more folk would have come out the the Grog Shop that night not just because I felt that the band deserved a fuller crowd but also because I think a lot of people would have had a great time even if they never heard any of the acts before.  Better luck next time to the bands and the fans I guess.  I am just glad I was there.

Here are some photos I took of the evening:

Those Darlins at SXSW:

-Visit Those Darlins to pre-order a copy of their debut release.  LP drops on 6/23/09 and the CD drops two weeks later on 7/7/09.

-Visit Amazon.Com to download Wild One (or maybe check out one of my previous blogs)

-The Dexateens are giving away one of their albums for free (donations accepted!)

The Bouncing Souls, The Loved Ones, Black President – Grog Shop – Cleveland , OH – 05/07/09 – Concert Review

The Bouncing Souls
The Bouncing Souls

It was a memorable punk rock event Thursday night at the Grog Shop thanks to The Bouncing Souls, The Loved Ones, and Black President.  The three bands actually had just performed to a packed the house the night before as the bands made a two night stop at the well known Cleveland venue.  Having not been able to attend both shows I am glad I was at least able to be at one seeing how great of an evening I had.

New Jersey’s The Bouncing Souls have taken this entire year to celebrate being a punk rock band for 20 years. To commemorate their success the band has been releasing a song a month for download available on their own label’s website Chunksaah Records for the entire 2009 year. The band also will be releasing a limited edition 7″ every third month of the year available online, at select music shops, and of course at their live shows.  If that was not good enough for a festivity, the band decided to hit the road on a string of tours to select cities.  Accompanying The Bouncing Souls were friends The Loved Ones and punk rock super group Black President.

Bouncing Souls Celebrating 20 Years
Bouncing Souls Celebrate 20 Years

The venue filled up quickly and featured all sorts of fans, many who were at the previous night’s show.  Punk rockers of all ages hung out in the dark venue waiting for what was to come.  I joked to my friends how old I felt seeing that I saw The Bouncing Souls open for NOFX in 1998.  Still I refused to let age affect me and was excited to be a part of the evening as I had been looking forward to this show for weeks.

Black President started off the evening and pretty much set the mood for the rest of the evening with their energy.  Formed in 2005 well before Barack Obama because his quest, a lot of ticket holders thought that the band name was created after the fact of our current president. The band consisting of some pretty important punk rockers like Charlie Paulson of Goldfinger and Dave Raun of Lagwagon did not get the full credit they deserved by all who attended from the start but the crowd seemed to warm up to them.  I myself was enthralled the moment the band broke into a Motorhead cover of “Iron Fist” and then announced it was their first time playing the song live. Blasting through selected songs from their self titled debut release including “Last F#cking Hope” the band won me over and much of the crowd as well.

The Loved Ones, hailing from Philadelphia, may not have been around for twenty years but they took stage and played their hearts out to the welcoming crowd. This Fat Wreck Chords act has been a favorite of mine for a couple of years now so it was great to finally see them play the stage. Playing songs from their recent EP Distractions as well as former releases Build & Burn and Keep Your Heart, including the catchy song “The Bridge”, the band sounded solid and looked to be having a great time performing to the near sold out crowd.

Before The Bouncing Souls even took stage fans were screaming the trademark Bouncing Souls soccer chant “Ole” jointly.  The moment the Bouncing Souls took stage and started playing the temperature rose a good ten degrees in the venue from all the movement in the crowd.  With arms in the air, and some legs too, the fans were truly going ballistic for the main act of the evening.

Greg Attonito and crew were all smiles as they ripped through show starter “True Believer”.  Classic tracks such as “That Song”, Here We Go”, Lean On Sheena”, and “I Like Your Mom” continued the set with almost all the fans singing along to.  At times the lead singer looked more of a lounge act as he slowly graced the stage to the left and right and just seemed so at peace with the environment surrounding him.

Towards the middle of the set Greg Attonito grabbed an acoustic guitar and played a very chill version of the Misfits‘ “Hybrid Moments” which brought grins to the faces of all the real punk rockers in the crowd.  I sang along with everyone else and for a brief moment felt like a kid all over again.

I was not at a Bouncing Souls show that night, I was at a Bouncing Souls celebration for them being a punk act for 20 years.  Having been a fan of them for most of those 20 year I felt so fortunate to be a part of the festivities and enjoyed every moment of the evening.  Openers Black President were a treat to see live as were The Loved Ones making for an ultimate night of punk rock fun.

I managed to take a couple of photos that night at the show but the Grog Shop has terrible lighting and I do not use a flash out of repsect for the artists performing.  Here are a couple that came out that looked ok in black & white.  I would have gotten closer for some shots but the pits for all three performance were pretty insane and I love my camera too much to risk damage to it.

(ok, I’m not going to lie…these pics SUCK.  Better luck next time I guess…)

Here is a video of the acoustic version of “Hybrid Moments” taken from another venue:

Black President music video:

The Loved Ones music video:

Mastodon – Beachland Ballroom – Cleveland, OH – 05/02/2009 – Concert Review

I am sure it is safe to say that there was a lot of ringing going on in the ears of many fans who attended the Mastodon show at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH.    Of the hundreds of shows I have attended in my time, this was by far one of the loudest.  The show was sold out, and had been for months, so needless to say there were a lot of excited folk in the house.

When I first heard that Atlanta heavy metal / prog rock artists Mastodon were going to be playing at the Beachland Ballroom with special guests Intronaut and Kylesa, I knew it would sell out quickly because of the smaller capacity venue.  Sadly I was not able to get a ticket in time and I really thought that I was going to miss this show.  As luck would have it someone reached out to me with an extra ticket.  Matt, you are my hero.

Before I even continue I need to make it clear that I am “one of those fans” meaning that I am not a long time Mastodon fan.  I have heard of them since they started and checked out their material but it was not until Crack The Skye that I really started to appreciate them.  Since the release I have collected the band’s entire catalog and realized what I had been missing.  Call me what you want, Crack The Skye is still my personal favorite album by the band so one could imagine my excitement to witness the entire album being played start to finish with no interruptions.

My two friends Shannon and Josh from West Virginia had mentioned they were making the 4+ hour drive to see Mastodon and that they had purchased tickets earlier.  We decided to meet up and attend the show together.  After many hours of showing them around Cleveland (My Mind’s Eye was a fav stop for them) we finally arrived to the Beachland Ballroom three hours prior to showtime.  We arrived early to meet up with Matt and also check out Music Saves as well as other shops on Waterloo.

Brann & Shannon
Brann & Shannon

As luck would have it members of Mastodon, more specifically Brann Dailor the drummer, and guitarist Bill Kelliher were checking out Waterloo Ave, mostly looking for some food.  Shannon spotted Brann while we were shopping inside Music Saves, and being the huge fan she is she took off out the store and was able to get the ultimate concert souviner, a photograph of her and Brann.  Brann was more than kind to pose with her and even thanked her for having the picture taken with him.  Shannon’s day was complete and the show hadn’t even started.

Metal fans young and old filled up the Beachland Ballroom at a quick rate and Intronaut began the show to cheering fans.  Having never heard their material before I got a kick out of how they would throw in almost jazzy sounding instrumental breaks in between their brutal heavy metal playing.  Sadly they only knocked out a couple of songs and left the stage leaving some of the fans wanting much more.

Kylesa was up next and having never heard them either I was not sure what to expect.  While the band set up Josh noted that there were two drum sets on stage and in no time the sludge metal act were hammering out songs impressing me and my out of town concert buddies.  I loved how the singing duties revolved around the stage while the duel drummers almost seemed to out drum one another.  I’ll be checking this Georgia act out some more soon.

The crowd in the venue seemed to double just before Mastodon took stage.  Just prior to them doing so I was able to exit the Beachland Ballroom and hand off a ticket to Adam who had to work late but managed to meet us there just in time.  We all found a spot just in front of the soundboard and planted out feet for what was to come.

It seemed that Mastodon came to Cleveland to do their job and then leave.  They never said hello, they just picked up their instruments and began playing “Oblivion”, the first song off of Crack The Skye.  The stage was clear of distractions with the exception of a giant screen hung behind them.  During the performance, strange visuals were propped up on the screen showing black and white images that reminded me of something H. P. Lovecraft might have written a story about with helmeted warriors, wizards, and fair maidens as well as a cosmic atmosphere.

The band members some bearded and messy haired, minus drummer Brann Dailor who is more of a clean cut chap, were not there to entertain, they were there to perform.  The band collectively kept concentrated while executing their latest masterpiece to the fans and did so very well.  The band continued playing until the album was covered start to finish and then left the stage for a break.  Hearing the entire album played live was just incredible.

While on their short break a great Mastodon album cover morph animation displayed on the screen that kept repeating itself almost hypnotizing the fans making them scream louder and louder for the metal band of the night to continue their performance.

The band returned to stage and offered a selection of tracks from their past albums Blood Mountain, Leviathan, and Remission.  The songs were much faster and, to some, were songs fans came to see.  Even if I am “one of those fans”, I enjoyed what I heard and a couple of the tracks were familiar to my ears.  I was enjoying every eardrum destroying moment and felt cheated when the band finished their final song and exited stage.  I was selfish and I wanted more.

Considering the band will be touring with Metallica this summer I think it is safe to say this is the last time Mastodon will play smaller venues.  I am glad to have been a part of a more intimate show that evening as were everyone else surrounding me.  It was a top notch performance by an up and coming metal band I have the feeling will be going places in the music world.

Here’s a video a fellow concert goer took of Mastodon opening the show with “Oblivion”. Not the greatest quality but it should give you a taste of what I experienced that amazing evening:

Street Dogs – State Of Grace – CD Review

One of my favorite Irish infused, punk rock bands the Street Dogs dropped yet another release over the summer titled State of Grace.  Fronted by the one time lead vocalist of the infamous Dropkick Murphys, this CD delivers powerful punk rock anthems fueled with a traditional Irish feel to it.  This is the band’s fourth release and their first under Hellcat Records.

Street Dogs
Street Dogs

Lead singer Mike McColgan is one of the most American punk rockers you will ever meet.  Before fronting the Dropkick Murphys, he served time overseas during the Gulf War to help pay for school.  When he returned, he helped start the Dropkick Murphys in 1996 and released Do or Die; it was the only album he released with the band.  In 1998 he left the Dropkick Murphys to pursue his dream of becoming a fireman.  Fast forward a couple of years later to 2002 and McColgan got the music fever again and started the Street Dogs.

On their fourth full length release the five-some sounds stronger than ever.  Album opener “Mean Fist” is impressive with a full on punk rock approach start to finish.  “Into The Valley” sounded like an anti-war group marching song insuring escalating spirits for all soldiers involved in this senseless war.

Other stand out songs are “Rebel Song” with McColgan signing his heart out about standing up in a poor nation to rise above.  The song reassures the underprivileged that they should continue to do what they do and unite.  “The General’s Boombox” continued the high spirit lyrics about staying true to yourself.

“Elizabeth” reminds me of an Irish pub song that everyone in the house could sing-a-long to.  Another sing-a-long track “Two Angry Kids” would be best listened to away from the bar as the song makes you want to dance wildly around and pump your fists in the air.

“San Patricios” is by far my favorite track.  The Irish meets Mexican song is insane.  I loved the Spanish singing and guitar riffs layered with punk rock.  The Irish/Mexican unity track recalls back to the times when the Irish teamed with the Mexicans for their fight against the US to save Mexico.

If you are looking for a band that has similarities of the Dropkick Murphys keep in mind that even though McColgan was the original lead vocalist that the Street Dogs take a different approach at Irish punk rock with less bagpipe playing and alcohol inspired tracks.  From political views to the love of family and friends this CD was amazing especially the third time I listened to it.

The first listen was an introduction but by the third listen I was hooked.  This is one of the better punk rock albums that has been released in 2008.  Street Dogs exist because of the love of music for an Irish gent straight out of Boston.  If you are looking for punk rock at its finest go out and grab a copy of State of Grace.

Check out the Street Dogs live this fall.  For more info visit their website or check out their MySpace.