May 29, 2008

Floating along with the Submarines

I posted earlier about how much I liked The Submarines' new album, "Honeysuckle Weeks," and last night I got to see them live at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge. I came away thinking how much fun they seem to be having. They were totally pleased with the turnout here... maybe they get smaller crowds elsewhere and because they are both originally from New England, they got an extra bump in attendance. Whatever reason, they play a bubbly brand of poppish-rock sparked with great enthusiasm and cheeriness.
Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti are actually The Submarines; they brought along a drummer, a very exuberant guy named Jason Stare, who looks kind of like Animal from the Muppets. The only drag was that between the lighting at the Middle East and the camera I was using, I get next to nothing for pics. The two above are really the only ones that weren't blurry. I also took two videos, below. On both the focus goes in and out, which sucks, but the sound quality is pretty good. So while the videos are playing, go search out pics of Blake. She's really cute and exuberant. The one thing that sort of twisted me is that they play with a lot of computer-backed music, which really goes against what I believe a band is all about, but all three do play instruments to augment the sound. I just wonder how much spontaneity can occur... But the show was still great fun.

May 28, 2008

Now You See Them

Just a quick note to say that I've moved all my concert photos over to Flickr. Very soon I will make sure my Modern Acoustic website photo link will also take you there. Flickr is much quicker for uploading -- I don't have resize all the pics myself -- and the photos are much easier to find on the Net so they get more views.
Check them out HERE (, for those who would like the actual address).
Above and below, a couple samples of what you'll find there...

May 23, 2008

Survival Mode

Sometimes coincidences are hard to ignore. This morning I heard from one of my best friends that he and his wife may be divorcing. It was a hard email to read because his family and ours, though we live a state apart, are close, and we've shared some great times together. The coincidence came when my teenage daughter came into the den singing "I Will Survive" just when I was reading my friend's email. I was surprised she knew the song, and when I asked her who sang it (just testing her, since I knew), she said "some woman." I was even more surprised because she had heard the 1970s Gloria Gaynor version, and not the newer version by the band Cake, who I know very little about. It's also an interesting note that I remember my mom using Gaynor's version as her strength during the time of her divorce from my dad.
Anyway, as I played the Cake version of the song for my daughter, I came to a very solid conclusion: The band did something pretty miraculous. They turned a '70s disco anthem about a woman's survival into a pretty great rocking tune. Not only does it sound good but it also keeps the survival message strong. I'm really impressed that it works so well. Apparently, there is some controversy concerning this version though. Some critics feel the band's snide-sounding vocals are making fun of the song. I totally disagree. I think that sneering attitude is fitting for the lyrics. It's true, it's not a "woman" song anymore, but I think it still carries the same "FU" message. In comparison, take Eric Clapton's own reworking of his emotion-drenched classic "Layla," which he turned into an acoustic waltz. It may sound OK, he totally cut the balls out of the tune. There's no angst anymore. If the idea of covering a song is to give a new perspective without losing the meaning of the original, Cake's version of "I Will Survive" is damn-near perfect.
To my friends Karen and Jeff, this song's for you.
Listen to Cake's version HERE.
Below, YouTube videos: Gloria Gaynor's original, followed by Cake's.

May 2, 2008

Jackie Greene rocks

He bounds onstage, and you think to yourself: Can this tiny wisp of kid with the crazy hair really deliver the goods? Well, I'm here to tell you, yes. (The picture above doesn't do him justice, but the one to the left is really what you see most of the night.) Jackie Greene can do it all: He plays a mean guitar (see clips below), also plays keys, harmonica, and has an amazingly soulful voice. Who is he? For those who don't know his story it goes something like this. He's from the Sacramento area and has built a name there on his guitar-playing. His new album, "Giving up the Ghost," is more singer-songwriter than guitar monster, but categorizing him doesn't do him justice. He's recently found success and a new following as a guitarist for Phil Lesh (yes, Deadheads, that Phil Lesh), which gives him new cred among jam-banders.
As for the show last night, Greene moved easily between guitar and keys, and his songs were built on great guitar solos that were thankfully precise, to the point and not overbloated jam-band affairs. His own tunes "Ball & Chain" and "I Don't Live in a Dream," to name a few, really came off well. He did a couple of Dead tunes -- "Sugaree," as an encore -- but he did them his way, turning them into rockers with little Dead influence. In all, it was an eye- and ear-opening experience.
A clip of one of his guitar solos is below. For other clips, click HERE and HERE.

May 1, 2008

Rumors, remixed

Hey, here's a cool remix of Josh Ritter's "Rumors" by John Dragonetti of the Submarines. Totally fun. The link to the "Rumors" remix is HERE.
By the way, check out the Submarines new album "Honeysuckle Weeks." It's also really great. Below is the short review I wrote in the latest issue of Modern Acoustic (click HERE to for free download of the magazine.)

Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti, known as the Submarines, are an interesting pair. Their last album, “Declare a New State,’’ was written separately during their breakup and recorded when they got back together. They have since married and have a new album, “Honeysuckle Weeks,’’ due in May. The album, which explores the ins and outs of love (naturally!), is full of playful beats, electronic accents and chiming guitars. Tracks worth hearing include “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie” (she sings “Love can free us from all excess, from our deepest debt/ ’cause when our hearts are full, we need much less), and “Swimming Pool,” in which Hazard’s voice just pops out of the speakers.