Monthly Archives: July 2010

Setlist: Carribean Fever

It is music made to be danced to and unless you were born without a sexual hormone in your body, or you believe that rhythm is the Devil’s voice in disguise, then you won’t be able to stop yourself from wanting to grab a member of the opposite sex, pull her close to you, or be pulled close to him, and get your groove on. DJ Meredith’s Caribbean Fever on BreakThru Radio will inspire even the most insipid killjoy to tap into his or her primitive inhibitions of ‘dance-as-mating-ritual’ and prep for a Saturday night of teasing through movement.

There is no debating that Caribbean music is the one flavor of sound capable of driving even the most numb soul back to life. It is pretty much impossible to not feel desire when listening to the tracks DJ Meredith features on her Saturday afternoon program. The show opens with a Caribbean operatic cry for necessity, “DJ Meredith, we neeeeeed you, yeah, yeah, yeah,” and then there is that voice—DJ Meredith’s vocal enticement—soothing and titillating, with a Staten Island meets Patois accent, as if Staten Island is a ferry ride away from St. Kitts rather than a borough of New York City.

When I tease her about not being able to hear enough of her voice during the show, she counters: “Hmmm, I don’t mic break a lot for that one, and I don’t prep them either. The show is more about the music—a blend of dancehall and reggae with an occasional soca track. I don’t like to do too much talking on that particular show. I’ll give up tour dates and minimal artist bio details and stuff like that, but that’s it. What else do you need (other) than the music?”

Kudos to BTR Program Director Chris Hatzis for featuring this show on Saturday afternoons. For anyone who has been to any of the trah-pee-CAL Islands south of Florida, you all know that Saturday dusk-mood which is unique to beach, ocean, sunset, umbrella cocktail, and hip-wrapped sarong.

Picture it: You have spent the day tanning and swimming, sipping on Piña Colada’s and staring at Cabana boys or Latino bikinis. Your siesta has ended and you are about to spend a night locked down in Cuba Librés and local tequila. You know you will be surrounded by locals who make So You Think You Can Dance look like a grade school talent assembly, all you need is “the hottest dancehall tracks with the dirtiest beats.” It is the perfect timing for such a show, because no matter where you are in the world, Saturday afternoon is like the calm before the storm.


At around the thirteen-minute mark of the show, DJ Meredith comes over the air and dares us to “heat up our Saturday a little more” with “some new fire,” dropping the “th” from rhythm and replacing it with the signature Patois “dd”—riddim. So much excitement ahead, so much dancing and sweating and grinding to do, Caribbean Fever is the perfect appetizer to your feast of rubbed sexual tension with complete strangers.

The focus of the show is “diversity and freshness” DJ Meredith explains. “The tracks come from all over the Caribbean, as well as Europe, America, and other countries around the world. I try to give a fusion of the different Caribbean genres while at the same time playing the newest tracks and riddims.”

Perhaps you tune into BTR from the Caribbean itself, or maybe you are somewhere else in the world and are getting ready to hit a Caribbean club on a Saturday night to shake your ass to the newest Gyptian or Demarco track. Either way, if riddim and flavor are your thing, and you believe music is an abstraction made for sexual energy and the expressing of desires, Caribbean Fever is the perfect Saturday program to prepare you for your non-stop, primal mating ritual.

Be sure to listen to Caribbean Fever on BreakThru Radio, you can click here to listen to the most recent episode and catch new editions Saturdays on BTR.

Link to this article:

– Kory French

Allison Kilkenny – Unreported: Trust The People With The Electric Guns

An article being circulated by the Main Maine Civil Liberties Union states that Anthony Graber faces as much as sixteen years in prison if found guilty of violation state wiretap laws because he dared to video tape an officer drawing a gun during a traffic stop:

The scale of the Maryland State Police reaction to Graber’s video is “unprecedented,” (the cops raided his parents’ home and confiscated four of his computers,) but it certainly isn’t an isolated event. Yvonne Nicole Shaw, 27, was also arrested after recording an encounter with officers who had been called for a noise complaint.

(Image from

There are now proposals in the Bay Area to outfit all cops with wearable cameras to record stops, arrests, sobriety tests, and interviews. Obviously, I think this a grand idea unless the cop cameras become the state’s official narrative.

Citizen monitoring of the police is crucial in a democracy as we saw in the Oscar Grant tragedy. Hypothetically, if Johannes Mehserle had been suited with an official police camera, and no subway riders dared record video on their cell phones because doing so was newly outlawed, who knows what would have happened to that sole record of events? We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of videotape getting “accidentally erased,” or “lost” in office clutter.

The plethora of bad outcomes alive in this hypothetical situation can be extended to protests. Citizens video tape police during these demonstrations as a form of protection. Back in September ’08, I was reporting about the Republican National Convention in St. Paul when I received an email from Eileen Clancy, the founder of I-Witness, a citizen watchdog organization that relies on the freedom granted to them under the First Amendment to document public activity with video cameras.

Police have arrived at our office in St. Paul. They say that they have received reports of hostages barricaded in the building. We are behind a locked door. Lawyers are outside dealing with them.- Eileen

That was the second time the police harassed I-Witness at the RNC. The first encounter occurred on August 30 when seven members were preemptively detained at the house where the group was staying. And that’s the level of harassment activists faced without any bans on videotaping police officers. It’s terrible to imagine what could happen if the state outlaws independent monitoring of the cops – especially now that they’re experimenting with all kinds of neat toys like tasers, sound cannons, and the good ol’ reliable rubber bullets and tear gas.

It’s important to stress that citizen journalism is also good for the police, unless of course they’re more interested in covering up corruption and abuse than in preventing it. An independent monitor is able to neutrally observe conflict – sometimes from a unique vantage point as demonstrated by this G20 video shot by a Canadian citizen:

Could a police camera – on the ground, in the middle of the chaos – have captured quite the same story? It’s unlikely.

Link to this article:

– Allison Kilkenny

Liner Notes: The Top Forty Paradox

Last week I sat down with BreakThru Radio’s DJ Wynn to discuss his Worldwide Hour program. During our conversation, we naturally slid a little off the International Music topic and delved deeper into the realm of ‘top-forty’ radio. We discussed everything from what it was, to how it has changed over the decades, to the purpose it serves in today’s ‘music-as-commodity’ industry.

When I asked DJ Wynn about his thoughts on America’s perpetual infatuation with pop music and what his thoughts were on our continuum to rank and file music by popularity, what he offered in response got me thinking. Here is what he had to say: “We both work in radio, we both know how ‘top-forty’ works…. If you want music like that [background noise with a catchy jingle or phrase], then listen to top-forty. Some of it even has its merits. Michael Jackson is ‘pop.’ That is ‘pop’ music. And even though pop has such a bad name, even if you go back to when Michael Jackson was the king of pop, I mean, his shit still holds up today, ya know?”

Yeah, I do know. Michael still reigns supreme; and he probably forever will (or at least he should). Regardless of the fact that ‘pop’ music was around long before Michael is a moot point. I am sure that most of our readers and listeners are aware that the term ‘pop’ is derived from an abbreviation for ‘popular’ and is something that has been around to describe any and all music that tops the charts in both sales and play count. However, this marketable categorizing creates an unfortunate paradox.

Historically, ‘pop’ is not a genre or style unto its own at all, but rather just a listing of what records were being played the most over the air (hence, were the most “popular”). In the late thirties and early forties, it was Billboard who set the trend and set the benchmark for the future role of popular music in both culture and capitalist economics, removing art right out of the form.

How did they do this? They began to collect data in three categories of music sales to better inform themselves about the demands of the public, and en masse listener taste. They achieved their goal by focusing on three categories of revenue stream for the albums which were being made, printed, sold, and played: 1) Record-store best sellers; 2) On-air disc jockey most played; 3) Café/dancehall/diner/bar jukeboxes most selected.

On July 20th, 1940 Billboard made a boardroom decision that would forever change the face of popular music and youth-culture around the world. They decided to publish and release to the public what had previously been insider-marketing material, calling it the Hot 100, and listing “I’ll Never Smile Again” by Frank Sinatra as Billboard’s first number one hit. Music by popularity would never be the same.

On August 4th, 1958, Billboard did away with the categorical listings and began displaying one main, all-genre single charts Hot 100. From that year forward, the songs that made this list were considered to be the most popular songs in both America and the UK (it should be noted that the American and UK lists were independent from one another).

The pop genre was born, and it had little to do with categorical sound. It ranged from rockabilly styled songs by Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley to country tunes by Johnny Cash and Conway Twitty. There were even folk tunes by The Kingston Trio and Lloyd Price.

The funny thing (or the ‘paradox’ that I was referring to in the previous paragraph) is that pop began a self-fulfilling prophecy. What was popular was on the list, what was on the list was popular. At the end of the day, it was the radio DJs who chose what the public should be listening to, and there is no doubt that a roll of dead presidents tucked inside the album jacket of a new ‘45 helped ensure the quality of the music and, ahem, guarantee the amount of air play. To put it another way, top-forty was top-forty because it was top-forty. The exposure for the public to make any other well-informed decision was simply not there. It makes one question the validity of the term popular.

For most people, especially those under thirty-five, we don’t listen to the radio through the radio anymore. However, how much has this changed the industry is difficult to say with any sort of concrete accuracy. No longer is someone out there in radio Ga-Ga land choosing your music for you. The Internet has awarded complete autonomy to the music fan. This is a good beneficial privilege to both musician and listener.

Since this is the case, one has to wonder what the point and/or function of gimmicks like Top Forty, Billboard Hot 100, MTV Music Video Awards, or even the Grammy’s are anymore. Musically? Nothing. Popularity-wise? Perhaps something.

Maybe rankings and awards like these are still an accurate way to say who is selling the most and nothing more. If that is the case, we should really consider changing the genre of ‘pop’ to ‘dupe,’ ‘obey,’ or ‘purchase’-music. The word ‘pop’ just seems like a bit of a misnomer in today’s digital, autonomous world.

Link to this article:

– Kory French

BTR Artists On Tour: Deer Tick, Candy Claws and Yeasayer

Both veterans and newbie bands alike are starting out on their fall (gasp!) tours. So, it is time to celebrate the glory days of summer concerts while you still can!

BreakThru Radio’s got a few suggestions to help you spend the cash from that summer job wisely. In this edition of BTR Artists on Tour we are checking in with Deer Tick, Candy Claws, and Yeasayer to see what they are getting into on the road.

“I’m not a fan of flashy websites.”  So states lead singer/songwriter (and website designer) John J. McCauley III of Rhode Island rock band Deer Tick, on the group’s bare-bones virtual home. Composed of a single page without any graphics or photos, the simple banner “Deer Tick, A Band” is at the top, giving his comment a certain wry understatement.

While the site is about as stark as possible, it is also remarkably and refreshingly informative. The page is solid and satisfying—it explains how the band started, who the members are, where the name came from, what they’re currently working on, and offers an easily-accessible resume of all tour dates, past, present and future.

The same straightforward approach seems to be carried out in every aspect of Deer Tick—their music, their concerts, their identity. The sound is rock ‘n roll, no flash, but plenty of substance. At times Dylan and at others a Mermaid Avenue Billy Bragg. McCauley’s gritty voice delivers the stuff of a true, old-school songwriter and he is backed by band members who truly know their instruments. In an age full of musicians doing innovative work with loops, beats and synth, these men remember the value of strings reverberating against wood and know how to mine that poetry. The beautiful retro simplicity of bass, guitar and voice on songs like “Ashamed,” stand as proof that those mines are far from empty.

Deer Tick also make a point of playing great, raucous, real rock shows for their audiences. Spin magazine voted them one of the must-hear acts of Lollapalooza 2010, and Brooklyn-based blog Duke Street echoes the band’s no-frills mentality by stating boldly, “When it comes to playing live, Deer Tick doesn’t fuck around.”

With their latest album, The Black Dirt Sessions, out on June 8th, and a heavy tour underway, John J. McCauley himself took time to tell BTR a bit about life on the road with these no-nonsense rock ‘n rollers.

BTR: Looks like you guys just got back recently from an extensive East Coast tour with Dr. Dog & Those Darlin’s–how was it?
McCauley: Like you said, it was extensive. It was fun though. Quite an adventure. We love playing with Darlins and the Dr. Dog guys were great. Turns out I knew the guy Eric who was playing drums for Dr. Dog. I didn’t even know until our first show with them.

BTR: Discover any good/new food?
McCauley: Punjabi in New York City is the dopest.

BTR: Meet any cool people?
McCauley: I met Danny DeVito at Coachella.

BTR: Do any fun shopping?
McCauley: I buy stupid shit on tour, like t-shirts with stupid sayings on them. My favorite says “Shut the DUCK up!” and it has a picture of a duck with duct tape around its bill.

BTR: What’s one of your favorite places to play & why?
McCauley: I like Austin, Seattle, St. Louis, and Toronto. Good combination of awesome crowds, good music scene, good food, and of course, vice.

BTR: You mention on your website that your “live shows tend to go a bit haywire”…  what does that mean?  How do you make your shows memorable?
McCauley: Well, that’s kind of a difficult one to explain. We’ve done some funny things. I crowd surfed into a ceiling fan once and broke it. Sometimes we lose our clothes, light money on fire, light guitars on fire, there’s silly string, confetti, pinatas. It kind of depends on our mood, and drunkenness.

BTR: Any memorable audience moments?
McCauley: Sometimes we’ll have people from the crowd play with us. One time this 6-year-old girl “played” a guitar solo in “These Old Shoes”. That was adorable. Then there was this rad dude in Chicago who came up and slayed some harmonica on a cover of “Maybelline”. Those moments are really fun for us.

BTR: How do you take care of yourself on the road?
McCauley: I’m pretty sure I don’t.

BTR: Entertain yourself?
McCauley: I read a lot of rock ‘n’ roll biographies and autobiographies. I like true crime books too. I just finished The Brotherhoods by William Oldham, true story of two high ranking NYPD detectives who were hitmen for the Mafia. This American Life is a great podcast to listen to in the van. We’ve got the new Phosphorescent, and Delta Spirit, and stuff like that, (and) the entire Nirvana and Replacements discography.

BTR: Anywhere you guys are headed on the upcoming tour that you’ve never been before or are especially excited to visit?
McCauley: We’re doing a bunch of gigs in Florida, a state we haven’t played too often. I’m excited for that, especially since we’ll be playing with Dead Confederate.

BTR: What are your fall plans?  Working on any new projects?
McCauley: I don’t know. I think the MG&V record might come out then. We’ll just have to wait and see.

We might have to sit tight for that next record, but don’t wait to see this depthful rock group that truly walks the walk.

Deer Tick LIVE!!!

July 29 – Crobar – Miami Beach, FL
July 30 – Engine Room – Tallahassee, FL
July 31 – Buckhead Theatre – Atlanta, GA
Aug 1 – Exit In – Nashville, TN
Aug 3 – Proud Larry’s – Oxford, MS
Aug 4 – Hi-Tone – Memphis, TN
Aug 5 – Off Broadway – St. Louis, MO
Aug 6 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL
Aug 7 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL
Aug 8 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL
Aug 9 – Mickey Finn’s Pub – Toledo, OH
Aug 10 – Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, Ontario
Aug 11 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, OH
Aug 12 – Capitol Theater – York, PA
Aug 13 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
Sept 10 – End of the Road Fest – Dorset, United Kingdom
Sept 20 – Botanique – Brussels, Belgium
Sept 28 – Cargo – London, United Kingdom
Sept 29 – Brudenell Social Club – Leeds, United Kingdom
Sept 30 – Deaf Institute – Manchester, United Kingdom
Oct 1 – Captain’s Rest – Glasgow, United Kingdom
Oct 2 – Auntie Annies – Belfast, United Kingdom
Oct 3 – Whelans – Dublin, United Kingdom

For a band whose artistic aim is to create a soundtrack for the natural world, it seems slightly counterintuitive that Colorado’s Candy Claws would choose samples, pre-captured sounds and synthesizers to achieve that goal. However, their electronic approach works surprisingly well.  With dreamy, layered orchestral pieces that subtly blend elements of electronica with sophisticated surfer pop, Candy Claws successfully build a sound that evokes nature without simulating it. Whispered vocals and ambient sound effects twist through each song, creating a path to guide the wandering listener.

The project’s core musicians, Ryan Hover and Kay Bertholf, decided to create an album based around a 1951 illustrated guide to sea life, titled The Sea Around Us. The album itself, In The Dream of the Sea Life, was released in 2009 and incorporates sound recordings of the ocean from trips to Italy and the Philippines.
The musicians’ fascination with the complex intricacies and mysterious patterns inherent within nature are well reflected in the construction of the album. They state their intention to create “…the sound of the ocean, very simple,” and offer a beautiful take on that endeavor.  Hidden Land, the follow up to In The Dream of the Sea Life, will be released on August 3rd.  Hover and Bertholf, along with a group of friends who help translate their lush creations to stage, are touring the West Coast  through September in support of the new album.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the ocean come to life.

Candy Claws LIVE!!!

July 29 – Crepe Place w/ Pepper Rabbit – Santa Cruz, CA
July 30 – Spaceland w/ Pepper Rabbit – Los Angeles, CA
July 31 – Beauty Bar w/ Pepper Rabbit – Las Vegas, NV
Aug 2 – Velour w/ Desert Noises, The Apache – Provo, UT
Aug 6 – “Hidden Lands” Release @ Hi Dive w/ Vitamins – Denver, CO
Aug 8 – “Hidden Lands” Release @ Art Lab w/ Gobble Gobble, M Pyres, Kites Sail High – Fort Collins, CO
Aug 21 – Bohemian Nights @ New West Fest – Fort Collins, CO
Sept 1 – The Foundation w/ Magic Kids – Lubbock, TX
Sept 3 – Trunkspace w/ Magic Kids, Titus Andronicus – Phoenix, AZ
Sept 5 – Bottom of the Hill w/ Magic Kids – San Francisco, CA
Sept 8 – The Media Club w/ Magic Kids – Vancouver, British Columbia
Sept 9 – The Vera Project w/ Magic Kids – Seattle, WA
Sept 10 – Backspace @ Music Fest Northwest w/ Abe Vigoda – Portland, OR
Sept 11 – Visual Arts Collective w/ Magic Kids – Garden City, ID
Sept 13 – Kilby Court w/ Magic Kids, The Mynabirds – Salt Lake City, UT
Sept 14 – Hi Dive w/ Magic Kids – Denver, CO
Sept 16 – Replay Lounge w/ Magic Kids – Lawrence, KS
Sept 17 – Hi Tone Café w/ Magic Kids – Memphis, TN
Sept 18 – Muse Music w/ The Very Most and Adam & Darcie – Provo, UT
Sept 24 – Pygmalion Music Festival – Champaign-Urbana, IL
Sept 25 – Midpoint Music Festival – Cincinnati, OH

Brooklyn’s Yeasayer have a sound that they describe on Myspace as “Enya with bounce.” I would argue that they’re low-balling themselves a bit, having impressively translated their experimental sound from the raw, earthy qualities of 2007’s All Hour Cymbals to smooth-tongued dance beat rhythms on this year’s Odd Blood. Released in February through Secretly Canadian, the successful reinvention on their new record proved Yeasayer’s musical mettle as they passed the dreaded sophomore album test with flying colors. Many talented artists struggle with their second release as it presents a distinct challenge: further define your established identity while offering fresh material. On Odd Blood, with its distinct ‘80’s influence, pop vocals and crisp polish, band members Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton deliver a timely makeover of their already inventive sound.

The band has had several unique performance opportunities. 2008 found them supporting Beck in concert, touring with such heavy hitters as MGMT, and playing live in the Paris metro for one of La Blogotheque’s “The Take-Away Shows”.  2009 brought a lull in their live action as they worked to finish Odd Blood, but this winter they were busy promoting the finished product throughout Europe before completing an exhaustive list of U.S. venues in the spring. These hard-working musicians are back in action with a fall tour including Australia, the UK, and a select group of U.S. dates. Hopefully,  they will land a show in your neck of the woods.

Yeasayer LIVE!!!

July 28 – Metro – Sydney, Australia
July 29 – Prince of Wales – Melbourne, Australia
July 30 – Splendour In The Grass – Brisbane, Australia
Aug 1 – FujiRock Festival – Niigata, Japan
Aug 12 – Oya Festival – Oslo, Norway
Aug 14 – Haldern Festival – Haldern, Germany
Aug 15 – Sziget Festival – Budpest, Hungary
Aug 16 – Lucerna Music Festival – Prague, Czech Republic
Aug 18 – Rocking Chair – Vevey, Switzerland
Aug 20 – Frequency Festival – St. Polten Green Park, Austria
Aug 21 – Pukkelpop – Hasselt-Kiewit, Belgium
Aug 22 – Lowlands Festival – Biddinghuizen, Netherlands
Aug 23 – Doornroosje – Nijmegen, Netherlands
Aug 24 – Wedgewood Rooms – Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Aug 25 – Slade Room – Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
Aug 27 – Reading Festival – Reading, United Kingdom
Aug 29 – Leeds Festival – Leeds, United Kingdom
Sept 28 – Mr. Smalls Theatre – Millvale, PA
Sept 29 – Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH
Sept 30 – Bluebird Nightclub – Bloomington, IN
Oct 1 – Cannery Ballroom – Nashville, TN
Oct 2 – Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
Oct 3 – Trustee Theatre – Savannah, GA
Oct 4 – State Theatre – St. Petersburg, FL
Oct 5 – The Fillmore at Jackie Gleason – Miami, FL
Oct 7 – Club Firestone – Orlando, FL
Oct 8 – Union Green – Tallahassee, FL
Oct 9 – House of Blues – New Orleans, LA
Oct 10 – Austin City Limits Festival – Austin, TX

– Britt Sondreal

BTR Artist of the Week: Parlovr

Pop music has always been the creative mutt of genres, and for Canadian group, Parlovr, it’s also a crossbreed of something tangentially cool yet without focus. The alternative rock band is the latest offspring of Montreal’s enigmatic pop scene, and slowly becoming the biggest thing around that no one knows about. Their synthy rhythms and simple melodies evoke decades of musical experimentation with a redefined modern purpose, and music connoisseurs everywhere are beginning to catch the wave.

“I would describe our sound as ‘sloppy pop’ because it strives for catchy bits without the tightness of ‘commercial’ pop,” notes frontman Alex Cooper. “It’s best enjoyed naked with a piece of blueberry pie. And maybe live.”

There are hints of both garage band funk and electro-pop in their illogical, happy anthems. The trio noticeably abandons classical technique in favor of something more lackadaisical. They’re a blogger’s treat—unknown but quickly spreading like a pandemic among the savviest of online tastemakers. Well-regarded for their charismatic and high-energy stage performance, the band is currently touring the Northeast with fellow Canadians, The Suuns, to promote their self-titled debut album. When all is said and done however, they can also be found playing for a crowd of no one, in a graffiti-laden underground tunnel just for, you know, acoustical value.

“A lot of people have commented on the weird cross section of genres that we play,” explains Cooper. “Some people criticize us for it and others are impressed by it… I think it’s just about writing good songs, which is what we try to do. I personally get bored of things that sound too monolithic.”

Most commonly compared to indie phenom, Arcade Fire, Parlovr doesn’t have a string orchestra, veers specifically towards sarcasm, and is the first to admit it’s “not overly ambitious.” In fact, Parlovr looks more like three college kids plucked from their basement jam session and thrown on stage to carry forth with their routine. Their style is plaid and denim; their faces nondescript; their hair a little longer than necessary. They clearly don’t look too far into anything, preferring instead to enjoy life with a naïve sensibility.  Even their moniker (pronounced ‘Parlour,’ but spelled with a ‘v’) is merely a spark of their imagination with a twist.

“It was originally ‘parlour’, but we thought it’d look more evil with a ‘v’ and apparently there were more ‘parlour’ bands out there,” recalls Cooper. “I think there was a time when ‘parlour’ was in line to be the next ‘wolf’. Fortunately, that never saw the light of day.”

The guys pride themselves on an almost irresponsible, uncouth approach to the business of pop production. Their multi-instrumental sonic flair settles them well into the world of indie rock confection, and ultimately came together as “a cheap Kmart guitar with its guts ripped out, a two-piece drum kit and a keyboard with a mind of its own.” This, along with free spirit and blind ambition, and Parlovr hit the ground running.

The lasting thought of their non-didactic pledge is that those who seek the truth will find it by avoiding too much philosophical reasoning. They write about hiccups, sleeping horses, thought clouds and a “palace of identical things.” Their heightened vocals are slightly off kilter, and their guitar riffs are on a faintly different beat from their drumming. Nevertheless, the coalition of noise fuses together impressively. Additionally, the band doesn’t seem easily jaded or daunted by much, and has a relatively realistic vantage point on its own state of affairs.

“One of the toughest things about working in the music industry nowadays is having to keep day jobs while still finding time to write and tour,” adds Cooper. “But, no complaints. We’re lucky to have the opportunity to tour in the first place.”

First Canada, now the States, and pretty soon the world, it’s safe to say Parlovr will enjoy the sweet taste of eminent success as much as the irony in how it all spontaneously came to be.

Upcoming Tour Dates
July 29  –  Cafe Campus-  Montreal, QC, Canada
Sept 3 – Les Nocturnes Du Musee d’Art Contemporain – Montreal, QC, Canada
Sept 4 –  Festival de Musique Emergente – Rouyn-Noranda, QC, Canada

Link to this article:

– Courtney Garcia

Review: Phosphorescent with Dawes

New York summers are often hot, sweaty affairs lived out in steamy subway passages and brick-oven apartments on the 5th floor of old walk-ups. The grime and stifling temperatures create a potion so toxic that the city wisely offers its residents a wide range of free seasonal events, as though in apology. From film screenings in parks to outdoor concerts, New York’s public establishments invite us to celebrate these dog days, when most of us might rather be curled up in the fetal position next to our window ledge air conditioners.


These past few weeks have been especially brutal, and it was with considerable reluctance that I made my way through the dog-breath of the F train to Hudson River Park for their free River Rocks Thursday concert. New York came through, though, and managed once again to prove itself a city of both the worst and best surprises, offered side by inexplicable side.

The “gates open” time was posted as six o’clock with the concert at eight; I arrived at about seven, not knowing what to expect, but there was plenty of both time and space to spare. The evening’s crowd never grew to be overwhelmingly large, and it was easy to negotiate a spot close to the front throughout the concert. Though if you do arrive early, there are many delicious treats to indulge in, including:  empanadas, ice cream, lobster rolls, and beer stands.  These are all at your elbow, ready to help you pass the time and fill your stomach.

The night’s music opened with Dawes, a band of young “dudes” from Los Angeles. They took the stage around 7:30 and played a healthy 45-minutes set.  Though in recordings their sound is rootsy and Carolinian, in concert they are pure classic rock and reminded me by turns of Jackson Brown, Elton John, and the Eagles. This is a solid combination that, in the right hands, could lend itself to some interesting reinvention for today’s audiences.

Unfortunately, rather than allow those predecessors to act as fertilization for something new, Dawes has an old sound that is just that and not much more. With lyrics like, “If I wanted someone to clean me up/I would have got a maid,” these boys are unapologetically writing songs for the masses. While writing easily accessible songs is not in itself an unworthy endeavor, offering them in forty-year-old packaging, without refurbishment, may be. In order to gain the attention their eager performance so clearly seeks, Dawes needs to find a way to freshen their material, whether lyrically or musically, to captivate the modern music-saturated listener (many of whom were texting while waiting for the main act to take the stage.)


Phosphorescent is (conveniently) a great example of what Dawes fails to achieve.  Self-categorized as “Experimental/Gospel/2-step,” Phosphorescent draws on a wide base of genre influence and, depending on the album or song, could be described as honkytonk, country, swing, blues, choral gothic, and even, yes, classic rock.  As someone who has seen Matthew Houck and his crew a few times in various venues, I can say that this is a band of good ol’-fashioned bar boys who need to rage a little against the dying light. Given the impersonal distance of the Hudson River’s elevated stage, complete with advertising banners, I was concerned that the spirit of their musical howling might be lost in transmission.

Their opening numbers seemed to confirm that fear as a few numbers from this May’s Here’s To Taking It Easy were played politely, and a little deflated. Houck struggled with his guitar through a track from Pride before laying it aside; his reluctance was palpable and for a moment I thought the concert, insofar as the musicians’ investment in the music, was over. But this is one of the greatest strengths of Phosphorescent as a live act:  when these guys play, they are living the music.

The deceptively “simple” task of concentrating on the work at hand, allowing circumstances to inform but not dictate, is something any good performer knows how to practice. So Houck, by now a semi-seasoned tour veteran, showed his stripes and to his credit the momentary technical frustration seemed to lodge something loose and propel him forward into the songs with new energy. By the time the band played their third encore, “At Death, a Proclamation,” the distance between stage and audience felt smaller, the water’s breeze felt cooler, and a summer night in New York felt beautiful again.

*Immediately after this show, Phosphorescent’s van was stolen with all of their gear inside.  After a weekend spent canceling the first couple shows of their six-week run and scrambling to re-equip, supported by donations from their generous fanbase, the van was recovered with everything inside and intact.

Hudson River Park River Rocks Free Shows
August 12 – Deerhunter w/ Real Estate

July 23 – Maxwell’s – Hoboken, NJ
July 24 – Montauk Surf Lodge – Montauk, NY
July 27 – Rumba Café – Columbus, OH
July 28 – WFPK Waterfront Wednesdays (FREE) – Louisville, KY
July 29 – Capitol Theatre – York, PA
July 30 – Sherman Theater – Stroudsburg, PA
July 31 – Newport Folk Festival – Newport, RI

July 23 – Kessler Theatre – Dallas, TX
July 24 – The Foundation – Lubbock, TX
July 26 – Plush – Tucson, AZ
July 27 – The Troubadour – Los Angeles, CA
July 28 – Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA
July 30 – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR
July 31 – Crocodile Café – Seattle, WA

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– Britt Sondreal

Subway Series, Part III: Stuck Inside the Subway With The Permit Blues

Few people know about the process that goes into becoming a subway musician. It’s not just propping up the instrument case and playing a couple of tunes, although some people feel it should be that easy. For many reasons that we can think of (including noise pollution, overcrowding, and turf wars between musicians—though none of these are officially stated), the city of New York requires every artist interested in subway performing to go through a process of applying and auditioning for the program titled “Music Under New York” (aka ‘MUNY’).

The application process requires a video or audio recording of a sample performance, a written application, and any press or recommendations the artist may already have. Auditions are then held in the Grand Central Terminal, of which approximately 350 musicians are selected each year. The entire process is a pretty trying ordeal for a very limited number of spots, especially when there are returning members. 2010 saw the entrance of only 27 new artists. The bureaucratic approach begs the question: Why bother even auditioning when you can just lay out a case and make some good money?

The subway system is owned by the city of New York and is therefore officially listed as private property; so any unwanted “disturbances” can be written off as trespassing. How seriously the rules are taken is mainly contingent upon the location of the station, how well it’s monitored, and how much of a hard-ass the management chooses to be. To sum up an ordeal in a few words, it’s a trying process to be officially permitted to play in the subway.

So, who are these people? The quirky musicians with drums made out of buckets or keyboardists in gorilla suits; the eccentric neo-bohemians who put themselves out there playing music to an often ignorant crowd that is more likely to pass by than appreciate their sound- who are they and why do they do what they do?

It’s not just about the money. At least that’s what we young, idealistic writers wanted to hear when we braved the sweltering furnace that is the midsummer subway station to interview as many subway musicians as we could find. The idea was to learn about the journey: where the music came from in their lives, what made them go underground, the challenges they faced in the subway system, and their ultimate musical mission.

Of course, money always helps. We knew that going in. They wouldn’t be there if it didn’t bring in the bucks necessary to keep them afloat in this expensive city. But the general consensus we got from the musicians we interviewed was not only that it’s not just about the money, it’s really not about the money at all. Or at least that’s what they told us.

The first musician we spoke with, a performance drummer named Mike, told us about how everyone wanted him to “go into the subway, go into the subway”—not because of the money that was to be made in the subway, but because of the publicity it would get him. He auditioned and was turned down, for whatever reason—he postulates that they just weren’t looking for drummers. However, “permit or not, [he’ll] continue to play in the subway until [he] land[s] a good gig,” he tells us. “Because that’s what the people want.”

Mike’s passion for music is made clear in the way he engages his audience, flashing a flirty smile at the group of nine-year-old girls who have gathered around him with their mothers. He throws his drumsticks at the subway platform signs, does flashy moves with the wooden sticks while simultaneously blowing on a whistle. Later he informs me he can even play with fire.

Mike’s played all the big venues in New York, but it’s never been full time: “Just, like, guest performer stuff, ya know?” What he is looking for is the real thing—a band or a permanent gig. He could get it, too. He’s really good, and owns a lot of stage presence. “That’s why I’m down here,” he says. “Until I get the big one.”

Mike seemed a lot more career-oriented than the second musician interviewed, a guitarist named Troy who composed his own gospel songs. His motivation, he told us, was just playing for the passengers. He hadn’t planned on coming down into the subway, and in fact he began performing down there informally one day when he was “just touched by the beauty of life” and started singing about the Lord. “At the end,” he told us, “people just put money into my hands.” That was a couple of months ago. Now he comes down here when he is not busy, several hours a couple of days a week. He, like Mike, also does not have a permit.

Troy taught himself guitar, but the singing and songwriting has always come naturally. The song he sang for us is called “The Lord is Blessing Me,” and was fairly decent. He mentioned briefly the hope that someone will hear him and give him a chance [at singing professionally], but he stressed the fact that he just wants to live his dreams—his love for singing.

“Sometimes it’s not easy though,” he told us, “Some people don’t have the same faith.” Faith or not, at the end of Troy’s set a number of people dropped money into his hat.

We attempted to interview several other performers, but they were less forthcoming. Whether it was because they were busy assembling their equipment or because they were afraid to talk to us was unclear. The last man we interviewed, a classically trained violinist named Valeriy Zhmud, was the only performer we found with an actual license to play in the subway. Even he reported having had some trouble with the police. He showed us his license, and a detailed schedule of where and when he was allowed to play. But the fact that both Mike and Troy were unlicensed and yet still able to log regular hours was evidence that perhaps despite legal barriers, a permit was not all that necessary.

Whether or not a license should be required is a different story. While it is obvious that noise pollution and competition for space could cause serious issues, it is also clear that forbidding individuals to play is at least a partial violation of the first amendment. Besides, the music really isn’t hurting anyone. I’ve seen some musicians on the subway who openly declare that they’ve chosen to play music for us instead of sell drugs or participate in another lucrative, more criminal, activity. And for those who don’t do it just for the monetary aspect, it seems ridiculous that people who just want to entertain us and bring music to the masses are refused the right to perform. The musicians we interviewed seemed to agree.

The subway is a great opportunity for an up-and-coming musician: it grants them a source of income, practice time in front of crowds, and publicity. It gives them a chance to be seen and heard. And really, they’re doing all of us a service. They’re bringing their talent, however great, and their passion for music, to the hottest and most uncomfortable environment in the city. They wouldn’t be doing it unless they loved it. They deserve the opportunity to show us what they’ve got, and the least we can do is allow them to play, and listen.

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– Calah Singleton

Setlist – Worldwide Hour: An eclectic mix that airs here on BreakThru Radio

“Every now and then, I’ll get into a mood. I’ll get into a Bossa Nova mood, I’ll get into a Western African mood, ya know? But for the most part on my show, I like to spread it out and show the listener what’s going on everywhere,” says Worldwide Hour host DJ Wynn.

He is probably the best man for the weekly hosting job of the Worldwide Hour here at BreakThru Radio. With a peerless knowledge of music ranging from the Norwegian Casiokids (who sing in Bokmàl, the native tongue to Norway) to the Malian-influenced, Mississippi-bred band Toubab Krewe, DJ Wynn is tapped into more music cultures than most people are bands.

Casiokids – Norway

The Worldwide Hour on BreakThru Radio that airs Wednesday afternoons is one of the station’s best shows and without contest its most diverse and unique. DJ Wynn has a very daunting task laid out before him each week: program sixty minutes of music from all corners of the globe that appeals to listeners of all generations and shades of skin. How does one even go about gathering and preparing for such a task?

“All my stuff is kind of just a rag-tag bunch of what I’ve collected over the years. I started the Worldwide Show five years ago, when I was still in college, and at that point I was just starting to get into, mainly, Afrobeat and Brazilian music. A large collection of my music started from a Brazilian couple I had met at an organizational event called The Rhythm Foundation and we traded music with each other; like, ten gigs of music. Another really good resource is Putumayo. They’re really good at focusing in on a region and giving you a really diverse range of X.”

The most interesting part to the Worldwide Hour is how diverse the style of music is, but at the same time, how everything played shares the one common thread of belonging to a time and a place. “Surely, once you delve deeper into the cultures you’ll get a greater appreciation for it,” DJ Wynn remarks on the obvious. “But I like it because it sounds good,” completing his train of thought with a manifesting smile. It doesn’t matter what style, what generation, or what culture rhythm has to come from, as long as it moves you and places you where you want your mind to be set, it works. From Iceland to Ghana—if it’s good, it’s going to be played.

Nearing the end of the interview, I asked DJ Wynn a question on how the sounds from other cultures resonate with an American audience in his opinion. He looks me deadpan in the eye. “We both work in radio; we know how ‘Top 40’ works,” he replies. “People don’t listen to radio anymore and when they do listen to radio, it is for one of two reasons. One (reason) is while they are driving in the car and just want to tune out and two is while they are doing some kind of manual labor, so it’s just in the background and they can set it up and forget about it. If you want music like that, then certainly just listen to ‘Top 40.’”

Something tells me the people who do want music like that aren’t BTR listeners anyhow, so it is unfortunate that DJ Wynn’s advice and incomparable Worldwide Hour will never reach them.

Be sure to catch new editions of the Worldwide Hour, every Wednesday here on BTR!

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– Kory French

Top Music Festival: Top Festivals Flourish Despite Tight Wallets

With the summer in full effect and music lovers of all ages itching for a good dose of outdoor entertainment the question arises…  Is the hot sweaty allure of summer music festivals enough to draw attendees in an time of over-priced tickets and under-employed fans? Well, in a word – yes. As the classic adage goes; escapism sells in times of challenge. And with current music festivals tailor-cut to embrace nearly every sect of musicophiles there’s sure to be opportunity a-plenty for those looking for a respite from today’s financial and political woes.

Conforming to the zeitgeist of mixing varied cultural elements for an increasingly multi-faceted and curious populace, organizers of music festivals have begun to construct more interesting lineups in terms of variety. At Lollapalooza seemingly disparate acts like pop-diva-monster Lady Gaga and grunge kings Soundgarden have come to share the same stage. A trend that is popping up at nearly every music fest on this season’s bill.

The Lilith Fair has dropped the “fair” aspect and re-emerged as a forum for successful female singers of all genres, incorporating pop and R&B into its once acoustic only line-up. Kevin Lyman, founder and organizer of the Vans Warped Tour has made a concerted effort to maintain diversity in the line-up, combining ska, emo, metal, and punk while keeping the tour’s image as a home for alternative genres. “I think if you really tear apart (this year’s) Warped lineup, it’s appealing to a lot of different kids. It’s appealing to the music fan,” Lyman said.

Of course the opportunity that music festivals hold for non-profits and environmental proponents to reach out to young people has not been lost on this years gatherings. Greenpeace and other like-minded agencies held muddy court at Bonnaroo, and BP oil spill backlash was notable on the landscape written large in graffiti and on banners.

Despite an unstable economy and record low employment levels, fans have continued to dish out big bucks to attend live music festivals. In many cases attendance has actually risen this past year. The Coachella Valley Music Festival held in the desert community of Indio saw a ticket sales rise of nearly 15,000 over last year’s daily average. The famed South by Southwest Music Festival in Texas experienced a whopping 11% increase in overall attendance this year. This is a trend that has some festival organizers planning and hoping for the best. After selling out all three days last year, Lollapalooza has expanded its concert terrain in the spirit of “if you build it they will come”. The festival area now includes an extra 35 acres, upping the fan capacity from 75,000 to 95,000.

For those who just really cannot afford the price of a ticket there are alternatives. Organizations like the Work Exchange Team (WET) give participants a full weekend pass in exchange for a commitment of set hours working the festival. These scenarios help festival organizers to ensure the younger high-energy crowd, who may not be quite as affluent, feel desired as attendees of the music festivals. This year’s festivals are showcasing a strong line of classic musicians as well such as Carly Simon and Stevie Wonder.

Warped has remained a top draw over the years – it’s usually one of the country’s 20 best attended tours – because it’s so consistently able to plug into  the wants of its largely youthful audience. It pays for it with an onslaught of inexpensive merchandise, socially conscious messages and constant marketing of the bands and their labels, including lots of opportunities to meet the bands and get their John Hancocks.

With the live music festival world still much imbued with lively energy and awesome acts, music fans everywhere have a lot of opportunity to get out there and sweat it out in the sun this season. However, a trend of insistence upon involving every genre of music at each festival might leave some fans missing the days of unapologetic festival celebrations catering to particular tastes.

For right now though. it seems the summer music festival is still holding strong.

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– Amanda Decker


The innovative LA beat maker Baths is 21-year-old Will Wiesenfeld, from Chatsworth, CA—a suburb of Los Angeles, just north of West Hollywood. However, there is nothing suburban about Wiesenfeld’s music.

His debut album, titled Cerulean, which came out just a few weeks ago (June 22) from Anticon, is artful, dense, and soulful. I say dense because the songs are layered and complex, sometimes to the point where they sound downright schizophrenic. Baths uses some bizarre samples, from pen clicks to running water, much like the New York City avant-folk duo The Books. Although Wiesenfeld describes himself on his Facebook page as a “definitive overthinker,” his music isn’t over-thought or inaccessible. On the contrary, it’s soothing and meditative.

There’s something a little “new agey” in Baths’ orchestration (lyrics like, “It takes a lot of courage to go out there and radiate your essence” are a little heavy-handed), but his tracks remain grounded in driving beats, so that the listener doesn’t drift off on clouds of abstract sounds. Baths’ vocals are soulful and even funky at times—tracks like “Lovely Bloodflow” feature Wiesenfeld (a young white suburban male, remember) sounding almost like Prince.

According to his artist bio on Anticon’s website, Wiesenfeld learned piano at the age of four, and was classically-trained as a musician until his early teenage years, when he threw out his Barenaked Ladies CDs and bought the entire Björk discography. Thus began the talented artist’s awareness of the avant-garde and the abstract: Wiesenfeld bought a MIDI keyboard and a Digital Performer, and was changed forever.

Next, Baths taught himself the viola, the contrabass, and the guitar, and started composing layered landscapes of sound, and mixing in vocals over them. Since that time, he has recorded numerous albums and performed under artist aliases Geotic and Post Foetus, the latter of which featured a full band during live performances. That band included Luke Silas from the 8-bit rock quartet Anamanaguchi. Playing with a band is rare for Baths, who recorded Cerulean in his bedroom on his own. Baths now performs mostly alone, too. In interviews, he says he is thinking of gathering a band together, but recognizes how much work it takes to re-write each element of his complex songs for each instrumentalist.

Still, the guy puts on a pretty kickass show. Listen to BTR all week for tracks of Baths’ new album, and check him out on tour!

July 28 – Frank’s Place – Fresno, CA
July 29 – Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA
July 30 – The Mill Gallery – Santa Cruz, CA
July 31 – Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA

– Hunter Stuart