I stumbled across this awesome video from the good people at Tiger Moon Bounce. Maybe you’ll recognize some of them…
If you like timeless classics, or if you’re searching for “shma listen”, you probably know we’re on spotify now. Check it out here
When I was 22, I went to my first National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) conference in Baltimore, MD. More than anything else, NACA has probably altered my career choices and I can talk for hours about it, which I often do. But for those unfamiliar with it, NACA is basically a convention where college student activities delegates meet and book entertainers (musicians, comedians, wacky hand wax guys, etc.)
At this particular convention, I showed up knowing almost nothing about the process. I was way out of my element–Manute Bol was booking motivational speeches a few feet away from me–and I mainly tried to get students to listen to my songs on a discman. One of the best parts about NACA was meeting other musicians and building relationships with people who were trying to do the same thing. And one of those artists was Brian Webb who had a roving showcase where you play songs without any amplification in the hallways and hope that somebody will listen to you. I was taken aback at first and I talked his then-manager into giving me a copy of his CD Broken Folk.
After I left the conference I was glowing. Somehow I booked enough shows to pay my rent for a few months and buy me some time to keep playing music. This was the first moment I ever thought I could seriously build a career as a performer. As I drove back from Baltimore to Washington, DC, I put in Brian Webb’s CD and the first thought I had was “Oh. Shit.” If unsigned artists were putting out records like this, I was going to have to get WAY better, and FAST.
The album starts with his song “Shame” which became a staple on most mixes I made that year. It’s as earnest as anything I’ve heard, and with the light vocal cracks as he sings “It’s not about you now,” it’s more vulnerable than most artists allow themselves to be. Other tracks like “She Was Honest” and “Martha” tell stories as compelling as their melodies. There are dark tracks on Broken Folk like the waltz “Wrestle the Ground” and “Bigger than I Am” which build and go exactly where you hope they will. “Long Way to Go” is as soulful as it is catchy. And “Talk to You” describes the need for a personal anchor, a feeling so many artists share, in a way far better than I ever could.
To call Broken Folk one of my favorite independent albums is an understatement. It’s one of my favorite albums ever period. I wish more people would hear it. That records like this can slip under the radar speaks volumes to just how difficult building a career making music can be. But at the same time, knowing that seemingly obscure records like this can influence people as much as this one did me makes me hopeful that mine can have impacts I don’t know about.
If you want to give Broken Folk a listen, you can download it on iTunes or pick up a copy from CDBaby. Or better yet, if you live near New York, Brian and I are playing a show this Thursday, August 11 at Caffe Vivaldi in Greenwich Village (32 Jones Street, off Bleecker near 7th Ave). He goes on at 7:30 and I can’t wait to hear him.
Back when I lived in DC I played in a rock band called Shwa. We might have been unimaginatively-named, but we rocked out. This wasn’t a singer/songwriter and his band–it was raw brit-rock with plenty of stage energy and lots of fuzz. A lot of times we didn’t even play the right notes, but it didn’t matter. We had a blast. We played on some great bills, won a recording package, and even had some major label interest. At our height we were selling out venues like IOTA and The Black Cat, often alienating touring acts because our fans talked through their sets (if they stayed at all).
After some great years of playing together though, I moved to New York. We tried to keep it going and still play together every few months, but eventually we settled into quieter routines and one day just stopped playing shows altogether. I really regretted not being able to have a farewell show–I think we all would have loved to celebrate the end of a great experience.
So here we are, more than 2 and a half years since our last show together, and our good friend Amber has just offered us a spot at the legendary 9:30 Club. This is where I saw so many of my favorite shows ever–Radiohead, Wilco, Ben Folds Five…it’s hands down my favorite place to see a show in the world. I’m so excited to have another chance to play with my old friends Jim, Justin, and Reiter, and I can’t think of a better place to do it. If you’re anywhere near DC on July 2, or if you feel like taking a road trip, I hope you’ll come out and see us. It’s going to be a great night.
As a professional entertainer, it’s a big thrill to have people watch you play your own songs. But personally I think it’s way cooler to watch other people play them. I just stumbled across this super sultry cover of “Chop Chop” on youtube from my friend Alexa Wilkinson and thought I’d pass it on. It was part of the Backscratch sessions at Rockwood Music Hall a few weeks back and thanks to Sam Teichman for filming it.
If you had the good fortune of seeing a “Shwa and the Cuddlef*cks” show from 2007-2010, you probably appreciated the sweet vocal stylings and guitar chops of the current Cuddlef*ck of the month, Bryan Dunn. For 3 years, my buddy Bryan was the surly rudder that steered the Cuddle*fuck ship. Perhaps you enjoyed our sexual coming of age song “Independence Day” that we co-wrote together. Or maybe you only liked the second verse of “Brooklyn Girls,” which Bryan contributed. Well Bryan is a great solo artist doing big things these days and if you want to hear more, Bryan is putting the finishing touches on his new record. You can help him reach his goal, pre-order the new disc, or just listen to some great songs here. You won’t regret it!
I just came across a great article by our nutella-wielding friend of the band Robyn. Nothing makes me happier than the public shaming of low life scumbags.
Over the years, I’ve been known to take uplifting classic songs and re-envision them into “slit-your-wrist” downers. Really it just comes from the need to either completely nail a cover or to completely rework it, which is usually a lot easier. Here’s a take on “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters with my buddies Jay Rapoport and Jeremiah Birnbaum at Rockwood Music Hall last month. Enjoy!
It’s always great to hear your favorite bands evolve. Sometimes that comes at the expense of what made a band special in the first place though, as I’m sure a lot of Radiohead fans would protest. In the case of Athlete however, this is a band who keeps maturing and impressing me. One of my favorite records from last year was their latest effort, Black Swan. Their melodies are as strong as ever, but this batch of songs seem to leave something to discover every time you listen to them. The album starts off with the uncomfortably catchy “Superhuman Touch.” Just a word of caution, the lead synth rif on the chorus will probably stay in your head all week. The next track “The Getaway” was their main set closer when I saw them at Bowery Ballroom, and in one of the cooler rock moments I’ve seen, the whole room started an impromptu chant of the song’s “ohhh ohhhh oh oh” outro during the entire encore break. I could go on, but you get the idea. In a lot of ways they remind me of a less wussy version of snow patrol. Their songs are especially good for frenching with just the right balance of rock and sensitivity for both the ladies and the fellas to enjoy! It’s a great collection of catchy, layered, and occasionally anthemic rock songs, and I highly recommend you check it out.
All right. I came across this video the other day and had to share it. I laughed out loud at how cool Prince looks.