Sunday, December 31, 2017

J1 Best shows of 2017

I started counting how many shows I went to in 2017, and when the number hit 30 I decided that I might as well just write about my favorites for the year. There aren't really in any order.

VNV Nation with iVardensphere - Agora Theatre, Cleveland

After seeing Assemblage 23 last year, I jumped at the chance to tick off my other favorite electronic artist, VNV Nation. Ronan Harris was recovering from illness and had been told by his doctors to postpone the beginning of the 2nd half of his Automatic Empires tour, but decided that he didn't want to miss any of the shows. Having never seen him live, I couldn't have told you that he was ill. After iVardensphere set the pulsing mood, Ronan spent the entire show moving around the entire stage and interacting with the crowd. He's the definition of a front-man in that regard - even calling me out for being on my phone while he performed. "You can look at Facebook later" he said disapprovingly. I would definitely travel to see him perform again, this time at 100%

Aurelio Voltaire with Bella Morte, The Long Losts - The Shrunken Head, Columbus

I have actually seen Aurelio Voltaire perform live almost every year since 2009. Every time, he brings great bands with him, but never one as big as Bella Morte. They brought some serious energy and The Long Losts were ooky spooky, just a few months shy of Halloween. Voltaire was on top of his game, telling his usual stories and cranking out fun versions of his hits. He didn't do any sci-fi songs this time around, but he did serenade us with a couple off of his newest record, "Heart-Shaped Wound". And while I've heard most of his stories before, he shared one this time around about a day in his adolescence when he was going to end his own life, and how his actions that day changed his mind and keep him going with every passing day. It's always a pleasure to meet up with the man, and Bella Morte is one of Kelly's favorite bands as well, so it was doubly a treat for us.

The Dark Horse in Motion Festival - Dark Horse Tavern, Reynoldsburg

You could say this was also the longest day of the year for me. I woke up early, got food for the troops, and headed out to Reynoldsburg for an entire day of great music. You had the energy of Mobile Homes and Hellsfire Sinners, the thunder of Bridesmaid and Karma to Burn, and the all-around awesomeness of bands like Pale Grey Lore and Shorty Allen. I got to hang out with my old music comrade Brian while he ran sound for the night, and I ate the majority of a 21 pizza. Woof. I wrote about the entire night here, and I was pleasantly surprised at the all-around quality of the evening. It's been my experience with local festivals that there's usually a lot of filler, or just a lot of mishaps during the acts. The first Indy Fest I attended had so many wacky things happen, and I went to another outdoor one in the middle of a field in Blacklick, Ohio where a bunch of great bands played, but after the 3rd or 4th band it started to rain heavily, and there was absolutely nowhere for cover except for a small make-shift tent that was put up at the beginning of the storm. Unfortunately, the Horse is no longer with us and the DHIM partnership fizzled, but this was an evening of music I won't soon forget.

So Long Stargazer with Morning Theft, Wake the Trees - King Avenue 5, Columbus

After seeing Morning Theft on my day of life-termination, I decided I owed it to them to go visit them at a live show again, this time not on assignment. As it happens, they were playing with my old friend Chase and So Long, Stargazer. I had heard some of their music before but I was not prepared for the overwhelming beauty of the evening. I wrote a review of the show here and was blessed to have my dear friend Jess come out and take photographs of the band as they wowed the crowd. Morning Theft put on a hell of a show for themselves, doing a couple of knockout covers and showing the power of Jenelle's voice as she had almost recovered from bronchitis. I only caught part of Wake the Trees set as I was upstairs chatting with Nick about the MT record, but they are another great act that Columbus needs to take note of in the future.

Grandview Fringe Festival - featuring Morning Theft, So Long Stargazer, Javelina, CrocoDies - Tree Bar, Columbus

I was feeling depressed as hell and just wanted to get out of the house and enjoy some music, and I figured if SLS and MT were playing again, I'd go ahead and do it. I threw on a spiked face mask and figured I'd at least try to make it through all 4 bands. It was the first time I had been to the Tree Bar since Andyman had died, and I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed that venue. This was the first time I got to see Javelina, and they were unlike anything I could have expected. Fortunately, I had just gotten my pack of business cards for Music in Motion and I gave one to Amy, and so a beautiful musical and human bond was formed. CrocoDies kicked it hard for themselves, and this was possibly the best show I saw Morning Theft play the entire year. Stargazer was raising money for Chase's Peletonia ride the next day, and they didn't let the late night stop them from showing off their digs. It was one of those nights where all of the bands brought their A game, and I left feeling 1000 times better than when I arrived.

FleischgewehR with Zero Signal,  Blacktooth Grin, The Admiralty - King Avenue 5, Columbus

I knew F+ was going to be a good band when I first interviewed Frankie and Stephen, and sure enough they were as advertised every time I saw them in 2017. They mix up their set for every show, and this was a Halloween show so everyone was in intriguing costumes as well (as if a Rammstein tribute act needs an excuse to dress up). The Admiralty opened with some fantastic metal grooves and Blacktooth Grin did a spot-on tribute to Pantera, with their guitarist doing a fantastic job emulating Dimebag. I got to see my friends in Zero Signal perform their only show (article here) of the year, including a wicked cover of ZZTop. Honestly, everything about this show was great, including watching the Jackets beat up the Rangers with my photographer Sammi.  

Curse of Cassandra with Damn The Witch Siren, Village Druids, Playfully Yours - Blind Bob's, Dayton 

Curse of Cassandra toured extensively over the States in 2017, and I was blessed to see them 5 different times. Each time was a special experience, with setting off the smoke detectors at the Dark Horse, with my introduction to Blind Bobs over the summer, with the hazy show at the Summit and the LOUD show at Ace of Cups, and finally at their album release show back in Dayton. Playfully Yours was a tremendously fun electro set, while Village Druids gave us a great dose of weird. My Columbus friends Damn The Witch Siren spiced up the evening and shredded our eardrums before Curse took the stage and sent us all to awesomeness school. What made this night better than the electronic awesomeness that took place at the Summit or the night I met the dynamic duo? It had to be Jake stepping out from behind the keyboard and dancing with us all. Or perhaps the spanking I got from Nicole... I don't know. Maybe all the great weirdos that I chatted with throughout the evening. Maybe sitting by myself out in the cold rain on the patio. Who knows.

Ok, it was definitely Jake dancing. Lol. I don't think any band I saw multiple times in 2017 was as consistently good as CoC, and I can't wait to see what they dial up for the next year. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Hello Emerson CD release show, which featured a full dozen members of a band sharing the tiny stage at Rumba Cafe, as well as a poetry reading and a man playing solo with a melodica, and my man Jocef Michael, who has humongous things coming in his future if he wants to chase them. Dude is the most energetic performer of any of the ones I've seen all year and I'm excited to follow him around in 2018!

I can't wait to discover even more magical acts of musical wizardry! If you have the chance, go out and support your local scene!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It's a Jester One Christmas!

Among anyone who knows me, it's no secret that Christmas isn't exactly my favorite time of year. As I've worked my way into adulthood I've become somewhat grinchly and in the last few years I've found that anxiety has worked its way into my enjoyment of any passing holiday. HOWEVER, Christmas music (and of course the J1 Top 20 Countdown!) bring joy into the final month of the year for me, and so I'm sharing another fun batch of Christmas music for 2017!

Up first we have the impeccable Trans-Siberian Orchestra with First Snow, a wonderful instrumental track that they always play in their live set. It's a fun, upbeat and catchy tune which is followed by Flurries from August Burns Red. ABR released their phenomenal Christmas album Sleddin' Hill a few years back and it's packed with excellent metal renditions of old timey Christmas classics as well as a few of their own.

MxPx's Punk Rock Christmas doesn't feature any classic tunes (outside of Auld Lang Syne, which isn't really even a Christmas song), but it does have a lot of fast punk tunes, including The Late Great Snowball Fight of 2006, a tune about throwin' balls. Following the punk rock theme, it's The Kinks with Father Christmas, an old tale about a man's misadventure with a group of punks while playing Santa Claus. New Found Glory's Ex-Miss touches on one of my old favorite subjects - leaving your old significant other (who you hate now) in the past, but commiserating the times around Christmas.

My all-time favorite Christmas album is a compilation titled Christmas in Heaven, from Flying Tart records. Flying Tart was a subdivision of R.E.X. Records, a Christian label focusing on heavy metal, industrial and darker music. Backwoods was a group invented specifically to record for this compilation, and I believe it was just Buka and Level from Argyle Park. Christmas Wishes talks about hating the commercial side of the season and hating Christmas altogether. Supersuckers follow that up with another anti-commercialism hit, Call it Christmas.

To cheer things back up we have Hawk Nelson singing the popular yet rarely covered carol The Wassail Song. We then have local wonders Javelina with their aptly-titled gem Hard To Be Good and Withers bizarre parody of David Bowie with Christmas Oddity, with Santa playing the pseudo-role of Major Tom.

I don't even remember how I found it, but Savior Machine's Jesus Christ was one of my favorite songs to play this December, even if it doesn't have much of a mention towards Christmas. It seems to be a song dealing with the misrepresentation of Jesus, but it appears with other wintery tales on the compilation album The XMas Massacre, so we'll let it pass. Demon Hunter then deals with Seasonal Affective Disorder in The Wind, while Erasure gives us a tale of a botched holiday homecoming in She Won't Be Home. 

I never even knew Pet Shop Boys had Christmas music until It Doesn't Often Snow On Christmas popped up in our modern Christmas muzak channel at work, but it's another upbeat catchy tune about how Christmas will still be good even though things aren't what you'd hoped it would be. Weird Al graces my playlist this year with his tale about The Night Santa Went Crazy, which needs no explanation. "And he smiled as he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "Merry Christmas to all, now you're all gonna die!".

Lastly, we have a few traditional numbers as Bing Crosby gives us the medley of What Child Is This/The Holly and the Ivy.  I was disappointed to not find many other covers of The Holly and the Ivy because I do very much love Bing's version of it. In fact, most of the versions I found were lovely instrumentals, and I (again) love to dance to the song, but I'd love to hear other people singing it. Lastly, we have another punk number from I'm Ok You're Ok with one of my all-time favorite carols Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

All in all, it's just over an hours worth of Christmas tunes that embody my spirit this season. Although Christmas Wishes is grayed out, it's a worthwhile industrial banger that you can find here on YouTube. The rest is yours for the enjoying! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Jester One Local Love 2017!

It was pretty cool that Morning Theft ended up being at #1 this year. I spent a lot of time listened to a lot of great local artists this year, and I wanted to share the ones I listened to the most in 2017.

Morning Theft - Skeleton Twins

I mean, obviously we'll start here. I can't wait to hear their new music, and I really enjoy all 4 songs off of "...these terraformed ends", especially Decry and Skeleton Twins.

So Long, Stargazer - Fall Behind

The local song that I actually listened to the most in 2017 was Fall Behind by So Long, Stargazer.  The band is a beautiful phoenix, risen from the ashes of My Beloved Tragedy, one of my favorites from the Jester Promotions era. The addition of Kristin Green on vocals and piano makes the band soar above the clouds, hence the name "So Long, Stargazer". They only played a few shows in 2017, but I was there and I'm glad I had a chance to rekindle old friendships over great new music. Other great tracks from this record include Rewind and Ready/Up.

Ex-Nihilo - Enemy

Another band from the 2017 countdown. I found them trying to get tickets to see Graceful Closure this spring, a show that I never ended up attending. But I found something much better in Ex-Nihilo! I can't wait for their new music to drop.

Lydia Loveless - To Love Somebody

Now, this song obviously isn't new. But I just keep listened to it over and over again. It's the perfect sad song for those feeling down-trodden and rejected. Lydia might not hang around Columbus much these days, but she's still a phenomenal artist who I still greatly enjoy.

Jocef Michael Band - My Door

I met Jocef at a Ex-Nihilo show I was covering, and my goodness is he a great performer. I love his music, I love his energy, I love his drive. I love everything about the guy. Other great songs off of this record include The Code, Standing, and Flow Like Water.

Curse of Cassandra - Falling

I would honestly bet money that a song from CoC's new album "Nekonomicon" is going to end up on the 2018 Countdown. It's a great album and I can't wait to spend a year with it like I did with "Cult of Cats" this year. There's actually several CoC songs in my Top 100 on Spotify this year. Carpe Noctem and Dragon on a Leash were in heavy rotation for me this previous year.

Cosmos Elephant - The End of the Ocean

Listen, if you've never heard Amy Kies sing, you're missing out on something wonderful in life. Cosmos Elephant were one of the more interesting bands I met this year, and they were kind enough to let me preview their new record in studio with all the band members in a Q&A listening session. My other favorite song from this record is El Diablo Positivo.

Truslow - Doctor

I never understood this song until I had the chance to interview James Truslow and talk about life. It was an eye opening evening, and although this song isn't very new either, it's one that bounced around my head a lot after hearing what it's actually about. Great tune.

 Fashion Week - Scars

I had a fun time hanging out with these guys and they're another that I can't wait to hear drop a new record next year. If their last show was any indication, the future is bright for these fellas.

Mary Lynn - Space

Watching the diminutive Mary Lynn sing, you have no idea where this amazing voice comes from. This song is so fantastically lo-fi and indie and CATCHY that you can't help but love it.

I am so seriously happy to have local music back in my life after a long hiatus. I'm looking forward to more great music and musicians to meet in 2018!