Monday, December 21, 2009

Live Music Parties For The Holidays

As the Holiday Party season rolled on here in the month of December, three more noteworthy shows were attended on consecutive nights.

First up was the Wired Magazine event at their flagship store in the West Village, featuring a performance from one of this years breakout bands Cymbals Eat Guitars

I had been enjoying their debut album "Why There Are Mountains" ever since the good folks at TellAllYourFriendsPR brought it to my attention.

Having caught the bands live show at Webster Hall back on October 3rd, when they toured with The Depreciation Guild and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, getting to see them again in this unique setting was something of a treat.

The Wired Magazine store is an exceptionally hip-yet-nerd-cool environment to hang and see a band in. Netbooks, toasters, shoes, phones, bicycles, high def televisions and all the latest techie-type gadgets are at your disposal. Plus, on this particular night, an open bar and all the energy drinks you could handle.

As for the CEG boys, their performance seemed a bit more relaxed and less rushed than their opening slot at Webster Hall two and a half months earlier.

Have a listen here and you'll see what I mean:

They played a spirited set, incorporating at times, frantic guitar strumming, impassioned vocals, a variey of blended keyboards - moving from quiet passages to all out blustery jams - all within the same song.

As witnessed right here:

I'm impressed with the way CEG have no apparent inhibitions about incorporating alternately noisy and/or atmospheric passages within their mostly traditional song structures.

It's a sound I've become rather fond of.

Find out more about Cymbals Eat Guitars here:


The following night my buddy Davey and I headed down to the more fashion conscious area of Soho for an in-store peformance by a Texas born and now Nashville residing singer-songwriter named Erin McCarley

It was held at the Eryn Brinie clothing store and also billed as a "Holiday Celebration"

Erin McCarley has an instantly likeable, easy going way about her - and I can't attribute that entirely to her striking good looks.

Her voice is note perfect, the songwriting meticulously constructed and the passionate delivery immediately intoxicating.

Erin was accompanied by a keyboardist/backing vocalist named K.S. Rhoads, who provided just the right amount of support for her.

Listen here to her performance of "Sticky-Sweet"

Listen to her performance of "Blue Suitcase"

Erin's voice alternates between pure and sweet and a slightly more "smoky" rasp. The song "Blue Suitcase" has a particularly hooky chorus that sticks in your head all day long.

It's hard to say what is Erin McCarley's most outstanding feature. A wonderfully melodic voice, finely crafted songwriting and striking good looks all seem to compete for the honors. One is tempted to say that she is the total package here.

Listen as she performs her song "Pitter Pat"

Haunted by angels on her shoulder.

Yours truly - with the artist

For further reference:


The next night is was out-on-the-town again for even more holiday shows.
This time experiencing the full band electric show of Celia Chavez at Rockwood Music Hall.

Celia - a native New Yorker who now resides in California - had been performing almost nightly since touching down on the east coast the previous week.

Having already experienced her acoustic show on her first night in town, I was eager to hear how it all sounded within a full band setting.

The band accompanying her was Steven Elliot on guitar, Chris Parks on bass, Daniel Mintseris on keyboards, J. Walter Hawkes on Trombone and Sterling Campbell on drums. All quite accomplished professionals who enhanced Celia's song structures perfectly.

As for Celia herself, she has the most amazing vocal quality. Her style is light and breezy, yet there is a serious depth to her nuanced phrasing.
Listen in to the opening song of the performance:

Celia presents a playful stage presence as well. For one song, she played a toy xylophone, which served the dual purpose of echoing the melody line, while keeping everyone delightfully entertained.

When she is singing, however, there is no mistaking the fact that a serious artist is at work here.

The Rockwood has to be one of the most intimate, high-quality sounding clubs in all of New York. Celia and her band took full advantage of the vibe and delivered an outstanding show.

Listen once more, as Celia plays her own composition "Going To California", which she amusingly prefaced as "not the Led Zepplin song." Though I'm sure she could have done that version justice as well.



Find out more about Celia Chavez here:

With Celia's set over, we hung around and chatted a bit - Robin, Neil, Anne and I engaging various band members in chats - while we waited for the next performer, a most entertaining fellow named Ethan Lipton to come on.

Mr. Lipton's show is something to be experienced - at least once. The songs are lyrically hilarious - and the music is a high quality jazz presentation.

You can year exactly what Ethan does right here:


Not quite ready to end the night's festivities, Anne and I decided to head on over to Don Hills club on the west side of Manhattan for the Friday night Mondo Dance Party

They had a live band performing there as well.

A synth driven alternative rock band named The Ballet

Who knew checkered shirts could be so - stylish?

Somewhere in the twilight am hours, Anne and I decided to pack it in.
In the subway station, we stopped to ponder the artwork of Tom Otterness.

A surreal moment for sure - but then again - it was the Holiday Fun Season in New York City, so ultimately it made perfect sense.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Shores 11.18.2009 Union Hall:: Brooklyn, NY

Tallahassee rebel rousers, the melodically driven indie garage quartet of Holiday Shores showcased their brand of well-written American fables to the hipsters of Brooklyn. Dave Cromwell was there to catch the show and sit down for a short Q & A with the band's front man Nathan Pemberton.

The initial press releases for the band Holiday Shores were already full of impressive accolades. With heavyweight names like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and The New York Times singing their praises, it was certainly worth giving them a listen, if only to see what the fuss was all about. The pleasant discovery was a new, creative approach to songwriting and sound design. Enjoying the digital album right from first listen, it was then off to Union Hall in Brooklyn on the 18th of November to catch the band live.

Although the predominant creative force emerged from the mind of Nathan Pemberton, Holiday Shores now functions as a full band which includes members Josh Martin, Ryan O'Malley and Peejay Perez de Alejo.

The band opened with "Days Drag" and it was a delightfully unique interpretation of the album track. No guitars and a two keyboard attack, the glockenspiel driven melody-line captured the songs true essence. Putting the keyboards aside and picking up guitars, "Bradley Bear" was played, where you could hear Pemberton sing "get your hands please off my fable." The sound here progresses from light and jazzy to a near trashy rock & roll sound - and then back again.

Following that was the wistful album opener "Reruns." Again it's soft jazzy guitar chords for the first minute before the stronger rock feel bursts through. Next up was a real surprise as the band did a cover of the Byrds classic "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (from their seminal country-rock "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" album). In addition to it being a true to the original rendition, the more sophisticated guitar work gave it a near Grateful Dead-like feel.

Also played was a hopped up and spirited version of "Edge of our Lives," which kept the overall theme of jazzy rhythm guitar chords, sinuous guitar riffs, busy high-hat drumming and throttling bass ever present.

Wanting to learn more about the inspiration for this music, I peppered frontman Nathan Pemberton with a series of questions.

Q: It has been stated that your album "reads like a book of well-written memories." Yet due to the sonic presentation of the songs (murky and buried lyrics, which is actually what initially made everything more interesting to me - as we are dealing in *music* here- and not a literary work, like a book) it's difficult to truly understand what the subject matter of the songs are all about. Can you describe the literal intentions of the songs?

The songs all attempt to have some sort of story embedded within them. And I'm certainly not shooting for the "literary rock" tag of various other artists, I just appreciate when you can get a glimpse of the scene or world that a writer is trying to portray. Often, I feel as if the songs on this record are a little too over-wrought in terms of detail and not focused enough in terms of plot. That balance is something that I've been working on for a while. As far as intentions go, I suppose the main intention would be, as I just mentioned, to just provide a peak into another world or into someone else's story; to broaden some horizons. I suppose all music attempts to do this, in some sense.

Q: Many of the songs have background vocals that remind me of the pop/soul music that was popular in the 1960's. Was there a conscious intent to portray this?

Certainly. I can't express how much the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las influence my vocal writing. These two groups, in addition to the Beatles and Crosby , Stills, Nash and Young are like the Gold Standard for us in terms of harmonies and vocals. However, we're about a few thousand years away from coming close to achieving anything close to those harmonies.

Q: Growing up in your respective homes, what music was being played by your parents or older siblings? Did you enjoy listening to it?

We all had a very diverse musical up bringing. My father was a big proponent of us listening to the Eagles, CCR, and Tom Petty, oh and Edgar Winters. It was a pretty American rock upbringing. I believe Josh was fed a hearty meal of Beatles and CSNY as a kid. Peejay has mentioned to me that he just listened to a lot of Latin Music with his folks (who are from Cuba ). He doesn't speak too highly of that.

Q: What record did you love growing up, but now can no longer listen to?

I would have to say it's Billy Joel's "River of Dreams". My mother probably played that record everyday when I was growing up.

Q: Which recorded music medium do you presently use the most: vinyl, CD or download?

Digital and Vinyl would be the top two. CDs are just dead for me. I'm starting to get more and more into cassettes. I think the CD might just be too flimsy for this time period. Vinyl has such a hearty, visceral vibe to it.

Q: In the song "Dens" there are references made to "monsters" and "bears". What's going on here?

Dens kinda started off as a lullaby. Eventually, it shifted to song about lullaby's and bankruptcy. It got a little too dark for where I am now. You probably won't see too many more songs like that.

Q: "I'll Spend Money I Don't Have" is quite atmospheric and dreamy. The use of what sounds like a music box provides a unique texture. However, the piece is almost shapeless - like a Brian Eno ambient work. Is he an influence? Or someone like him?

Brian Eno is such an influence. I'd love for any of our records to sound anything like Another Green World or Taking Tiger Mountain . The song was written and recorded after a period of not listening to Eno for a year or two. However, once we started playing Another Green World around the house, Josh and myself did a double take and realized the parallels "Money" has with Eno's ambient side.

Q: "Errand Of Tongue" has a great drum and guitar intro. The organ then adds a deep soulfulness. A predominant sonic texture throughout your record is a "clacketty" percussive element - be it sticks on the rim, high-hat cymbals and tambourine. Additional tom tom work creates a sense of motion that keeps everything from being static and boring. Do you approach the writing from this percussive point of view? Additionally, the lyrics states that "I was left upon the tower searching for my native tongue." Is this then, in fact, the "errand" of the title?"

That clacketty feel comes up a lot throughout the record. Like you said, that sense of motion was a very important element to me. I didn't like the idea of songs not being pushed along by some other force. I feel the extra percussion just added another sense of depth to the songs as a whole. In some cases, I think they might've bogged things down, but in this instance the overall effect works. I was listening to a lot of Brian Eno during this recording. He had a habit of adding to two kits to his songs. Each would be doing these completely different things, yet they still managed to work so well together.

Lyrically, you're right on point. The errand also refers to language barriers. I suppose the over-arching lyrical metaphor in this song would be the Tower of Babel . (Yes, I got a bit biblical).

Q: What artist or band would fans of Holiday Shores be surprised to find out that you like?

We all like early to mid 70's such as King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis.

Q: The clackety stick on rim percussion is also quite prominent on "Bradley Bear." Again, a bear is mentioned. Does the "bear" imagery have a specific significance for you?

This rim percussion on this track was developed by the various drummers who used to play with me. Our band rotated drummers quite frequently and each drummer, when being taught this song, would all naturally play a beat quite similar to the one on the recording. I suppose this made me realize we had to use that beat. The bear imagery was borrowed from a story my best friend started writing with a girl who proved to be quite a bit of trouble for him. I used the story of them writing this story about the bear as the basis of the song.

Q: What solo artist or band would you choose to cover one of your songs?

Arthur Russell, since we covered one of his songs.

Q: At any given moment, what might one find playing on a member of Holiday Shores' sound system?

Huge question here. Afro-Pop compilations, Prince, The Byrds, and Dirty Projectors. Steely Dan, too.

Q: "Edge Of Our Lives" is probably the most commercial sounding song on the record. Almost like a Steely Dan song. Has there been any thought given to put this one forward at some point, as a "radio friendly" song?

Well, I can't say we really think of things in terms of radio friendly or not. We'd like to write crushingly good pop songs. And if commercial music and radio didn't have their heads up their asses, I suppose we'd be seeing a whole shit-load of indie artists on mainstream radio.

Q: "Days Drag" could be my favorite song on the album. I like the harsh carnival organ that drives it along. However, it is the dream-like and joyous "la, la, la, ooooh, ooooh's" with glockenspiel enhancement - like a marching band is celebrating how you "don't go out much" that is uniquely appealing. Is this some kind of daydream fantasy? All of this "celebration" only resides in your head?

Days reminds of that Kinks song "Sitting by the Riverside ." They both have this oblique carnival organ type feel. Both songs also seem to be basking in the acceptance of apathy, in my opinion. I just now realized this. It's more of a lament to lazy relationships, I think. The celebration of a realization...

The boys take off on a guitar and vocal exploration

then jam signficantly with the essential component that is percussion

Nathan Pemberton has an appealing creative musical vision.

Learn more about Holiday Shores at

and at their label