Off-Key with Ashley

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5 ways to get involved in the music business (even if what you do has nothing to do with music)

Ever listen to a great band or musician and wonder how you can get involved?  Lifestyles Editor Ashley Seering gives us insight.


5.  Read music magazines

Spin, Rolling Stone and AP are all magazine titles you may or may not have heard of.  They don’t contain anyone’s first baby photos, they typically don’t have some huge controversy sprawled across the cover, but they do offer one thing; insight into the music business.  These magazines and other music relation publications are a great way for even the busiest of music lover to stay in tune with tunes.

Rolling Stone Magazine

4.  Learn an instrument

One of my favorite ways to make myself feel like I have a place in the “industry” is to mess around with my guitar or drum set.  There’s no better way to understand what it’s like to be a rock star than to pick up an instrument and start playing.  This will also allow you to do covers of your favorite band’s songs, which is always a good time.

3.  Buy merchandise

Yep, it’s as easy as opening a web browser (like the one you’re on reading this blog on), navigating to the website of your favorite band, clicking on the “store” tab, selecting some super awesome t-shirts and other items, paying, and waiting patiently for the mailman to arrive. Not only will you be advertising the band with your new swag, the band appreciates your financial support.

2.  Join a street team

Street teams are probably the closest way to feel like you’re “in the band” without actually being in it.  One of the best, most active street teams I’ve stumbled upon is the label Fueled by Ramen. By joining the street team, you basically participate in promoting local events for the band’s on that label.  FBR gives fans a chance to put up posters around town, receive news and updates first and hand out fliers and stickers at shows.  Check out this link to get involved: http://fueledbyramen.com/streetteam/

1.  Go to shows

My favorite, and probably the most fun way to keep yourself involved in the music industry is to support your favorite bands and musicians by attending their concerts.  Ticket sales bring in a majority of the income for bands (especially the smaller ones) and you’d be surprised at how much that support means to the members.  Go to a show, buy a t-shirt or a drink, have fun, and don’t forget about the music.

A rock concert.

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My Oscar Predictions

So I know this is a music blog, but as an Oscar enthusiast I feel like I owe it to myself to dedicate a blog entry to my winner predictions.

Before I begin, I want to say that the nominations are kind of like sports teams (ugh, a sports reference).  People can argue all day over who is better, who deserves this or that, or who got screwed over in the end, so if you don’t agree with me, then that’s okay, I can’t see your reaction anyway.  That’s what’s great about the internet.

That and the millions of Youtube videos that I use to completely waste hours of my days that could be spent doing something more productive, but I’m getting off track.

 

Here are my 2012 Academy Award Winner Predictions:

*note: I haven’t actually seen every movie that’s nominated, so my guesses are mostly based on reviews that I’ve read, past award shows, and random crap I read online…I hope this means I’m still semi-credible.

 

  • Best Picture: The Artist
    I told a friend back in December that I predicted this movie would win best picture, so I feel obliged to stick with my promise.  Good luck buddy! Don’t let me down.

 

  • Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants
    I’m not much of a Clooney fan myself, but this movie has been kicking ass with various nominations and award show wins, so I’ll put my faith in George this time around.

 

  • Best Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
    I’m a fan of Michelle Williams. I like her subtly and her pure talent.  I’m also a fan of Marilyn Monroe, so when I combine the two, it is Oscar gold for me.

 

  • Best Supporting Actor: Jonah Hill, Moneyball
    I’m going with Jonah because I love nothing more than to support the underdog, and I love that he surprised everyone with this performance.

 

  • Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Mccarthy, Bridesmaids
    I actually saw this movie and loved it. Mccarthy was brilliant and I loved her brand of humor.  I’ve been a fan of hers since her Gilmore Girls days, and it’s great to see her succeed.

 

……and here are the rest of my guesses for the categories that I don’t have an explanation for, just to see how many I can guess correctly.

 

  • Best Director:  Martin Scorsese- Hugo
  • Original Screenplay: Bridesmaids
  • Adapted Screenplay: The Ides of March
  • Foreign Film: Monsieur Lazhar (go Canada!)
  • Animated Film: Rango
  • Art Direction: The Artist
  • Cinematography: The Artist
  • Costume Design: The Artist
  • Feature Documentary: Pina
  • Short Documentary: Saving Face
  • Film Editing: Hugo
  • Makeup: The Iron Lady
  • Original Music Score: The Adventures of Tintin
  • Music Original Song: “Man or Muppet”….The Muppets
  • Animated Short Film:  A Morning Stroll
  • Live Action Short Film:  The Shore
  • Sound Editing: Drive
  • Sound Mixing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Visual Effects: Hugo

 

 

The best is yet to come: The top 5 musical things I’m looking forward to in 2012

The top 5 musical things I’m looking forward to in 2012 are…

5.  Vans Warped Tour

Well…kind of.  I say “kind of” because so far I haven’t been impressed with the band announcements…but the tour always saves the best for last, so I won’t count Warped out until the full list is released.  Even if I am still unimpressed with the lineup, I still plan on going to take photos (which I did last year).  Standing right up against the stage for the first 3 songs of any band, regardless of whether or not I like their music, is a lot of fun. The energy from the crowd is unmistakable, and for those 10 minutes I understand why musicians typically love being on stage.

Get more information about Vans Warped Tour at http://vanswarpedtour.com/

4.  Pointfest

Since I considered last year’s Pointfests to be rather disappointing, I’m counting on the fact that the Point will make up for it this year by booking some of my favorite bands (as if they choose them based on my opinion…ha!)  It’s always exciting to tune in to 105.7 on “Pointfest Announcement Day,” even if it does end in disappointment. My taste in music has recently moved away from alternative and more towards folk rock, but I wouldn’t mind going back to see some of my old favorites. Here’s to hoping 2012 is a great Pointfest year!

Information about Pointfest can be found here: http://www.1057thepoint.com/Other/pointfest/29/index.html

3.  Bruce Springsteen’s new album, “Wrecking Ball”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will release a new album (Springsteen’s 17th album overall….wow), on March 3.  The album, titled “Wrecking Ball” has been described as “wild” and will apparently feature a more raw rock sound than Springsteen’s albums normally have.  Even though it probably won’t top “Born in the USA,” my favorite Springsteen album, I am very much looking forward to something new from one of my favorite musicians.  The accompanying world tour will be exciting as well.  Fingers crossed that it rolls through St. Louis or some place close enough to road trip to.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s article on “The Boss” and his new album: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bruce-springsteen-returns-with-wild-new-album-20120118

2.  The possibility of seeing Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Even though she hasn’t announced a national tour, Joan Jett’s confirmation that her band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, will perform at Lollapalooza in South America gives me hope that she is planning to return to the tour scene soon.  Seeing Joan Jett live is on my bucket list, so it’d be nice to cross that off in 2012.

Joan Jett’s official website is here: http://www.joanjett.com/

…and my number one anticipation of 2012?

 

1.  New Tegan & Sara album and tour

I became a fan of Tegan  & Sara right after they visited St. Louis in 2009 (horrible timing on my part) and ever since, I have been eagerly awaiting their return.  Many people probably don’t even know who Tegan & Sara are, and that’s what I like about them.  I like being a fan of a band whose shows don’t sell out within the first hour of sales.  I like that only “die hard” fans tend to follow them through thick and thin.  I also like that on each album they seem to get better and better.  Tegan & Sara released “Get Along” in 2011, which included a few tour documentaries and a live performance DVD.  I also received three different autographed posters with my order….woo!  The band has hinted on their website and Twitter that a new album is in the works and a tour is roughly set for late 2012.  Seeing them live would definitely make my year.

Tegan and Sara’s official website is http://teganandsara.com/

It wasn’t the real thing, but it was pretty damn close

If there are any two musicians that no one should try to replicate it’s Johnny Cash and Tom Petty, right?  Well, that’s what I thought until I heard St. Louis band Pettycash Junction.

The band, which covers both Cash and Petty songs, is just about as good as you can get without actually listening to either of the artists.  I was surprised, especially, at how much singer David Kalz sounded almost exactly like Cash.  Robynn Ragland, who covered June Carter Cash, complimented his vocals.

On the Petty side, Ragland sang with Jimmy Griffin, who did the 70s and 80s singer justice.
Pettycash covered all of the singers’ hits, including Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin’,” as well as Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire” among many others.

The band plays small venues like Kirkwood Station Brewery and the Old Rock House in St. Louis and I truly believe they offer something for everyone.  Even if you aren’t a diehard fan of Petty or Cash, these guys (and girl) are worth checking out.

Pettycash Junction

And the vocals aren’t the only thing good about Pettycash Junction.

The musicians in the backing band provided just the right sound for both artists, and their ability to switch back and forth between the two was outstanding.  The members were also great at keeping the crowd entertained between songs with their subtle and pleasingly not annoying jokes and banter.

I think it’s safe to say Pettycash Junction is now one of my favorite St. Louis local bands.  Check them out at Kirkwood Station Brewery on January 14.  You won’t be disappointed.

For more information visit Pettycash Junction’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Pettycash-Junction.

New Found Glory proves pop punk’s not dead

When I was in middle school I listened to New Found Glory for the first time.  I thought the band had the most hardcore sound ever and I credited them for catapulting me into a romance with rock n’ roll.

Now, just like their current Pop Punk’s Not Dead tour says, New Found Glory isn’t necessarily what most people would think of when they think rock n’ roll, but their punk-rock consistency is enough to give them a solid spot in the genre.

NFG brought four openers with them.  Set Your Goals took the stage right before them and The Wonder Years preceded SYG.  I saw The Wonder Years at Warped Tour over the summer and since then I have grown to like their sound.  Their high-energy set got a crowd of diehard TWY fans moshing and crowd surfing.  At that point I saw four or five people get thrown out.  The Pageant is definitely great at sticking to their rules.

As for the music, I thought each opener meshed well with the pop-punk theme of the show.  New Found Glory premiered a few tracks off of their most recent album “Radiosurgery” but I must say I prefer their old school days.

Fortunately, they played NFG classics like “All Downhill From Here” and “My Friends Over You” so I was happy.  The band didn’t draw a huge crowd, but attendees had enough energy to make it feel like a packed house.  My trip down music memory lane was everything I expected it to be and I walked away content and a few steps closing to deafness.

Halloween Spook-tacular

Since today is Halloween, I decided to compile a list of what I think are 5 of the best horror-related movie songs/soundtracks.  Without music, horror movies or any movie for that matter would lack a key ingredient that sets the mood and tone of the story.  Don’t believe me?  Try watching Jaws or Halloween without the sound.  Here’s a list of some of the less (and a few of the more) predictable top horror scores.

5. Hostel
Suite- Nathan Barr
If listening to this score doesn’t raise your blood pressure and give you a near anxiety attack, try listening to it while watching the movie.  I love the way this piece goes from horrifying chase-scene qualities to peaceful in a matter of seconds.  Combine it with the premise of the film and it’ll have you squirming in your seat.  The video below is of a different part of the Hostel soundtrack.  It’s dark and completely beautiful for such a grotesque movie.

4. Scream
Sidney’s Lament by Marco Beltrami
As a diehard Scream fan, this song always popped in to my head whenever I think of the best horror scores.  Beltrami has composed a variety of themes for each of the Scream soundtracks and he adds emotion to even the simplest scenes.  Beltrami’s music typically adds a serious vibe to a movie full of humor and ridiculous chase scenes.

3. The Last House on the Left (2009)
Opening Titles by John Murphy
I love this score because of the way it combines modern horror sounds with the original soundtrack from the 1972 version of the film.  While listening to the score, it’s clear that something horrifying is probably going to happen, but it maintains an innocence typically found in wildlife documentaries.  It draws me in without being too obvious right off the bat.

2. Saw
Hello Zepp by Charlie Clouser
This song is a great instrumental piece with just the right amount of mystery and energy to set the mood for the psychological thriller/torture film.  The building suspense within the score get me on the edge of my seat the entire film and I immediately added it to my Halloween soundtrack.

1. Halloween
Halloween Theme- John Carpenter
Master of horror John Carpenter created arguably the most memorable and most easily recognized horror theme when he put together the sounds for Halloween in 1978.  The theme has lived on throughout the entire Halloween franchise, and it’s just as eerie every time I hear it.

All Wrapped Up: The Pageant puts on a show full of mummies and burlesque

My most recent concert adventure occurred Saturday (the 22nd) and I must say it was probably one of the most unique concert experiences I’ve had.  Funk-rock band Here Come the Mummies headlined the show and brought with them an opening burlesque act.  A side note about burlesque: I’ve been 20 now for a little over week and Saturday was the second time I have seen burlesque since by birthday.  I’m starting to feel like an expert.

Fortunately, the burlesque act was very unique and quite entertaining.  It was also enjoyable to see old men approach the stage slyly from the side with a camera while I’m sure their bitter wives sit back shaking their heads.

But this blog is about music.

Here Come the Mummies sounded just as good live as they do on their records.  Their use of instruments like trumpet, saxophone and keytar made for a delightfully unique musical experience.  Combine that with their notorious innuendo and the crowd was dancing and laughing the whole time.

Although the crowd was probably the smallest I’ve ever seen at the Pageant, diehard fans did not disappoint with everything from homemade mummy costumes to merchandise that was purchased next door at Suite 100.

Before the concert, I had not listened to their music extensively, but as soon as I got home I went on iTunes and updated my library with a few of my favorite tracks from the night.  Even though I was a bit skeptical going in to the show (I always am when I’m seeing a band I haven’t listened to very much, especially when that band is wearing mummy costumes), I was more than glad that I got to experience it.  And yes, they do wear their mummy outfits the entire show.

One of my favorite songs of the night was their opener “Believe (In Things You Cannot See).” The song is the perfect combination of funk, rock and catchy pop.  Check a piece of it out below.

Blink-182 combines old sound with a new vibe with ‘Neighborhoods’

When Blink-182 released their single “Up All Night” from their first album in 7 years, “Neighborhoods” at the end of the summer, I was worried that their music was starting to sound too much like singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge’s new band, Angels & Airwaves.  It turns out I was only half right.
The sound of Angels & Airwaves is unique.  DeLonge’s vocals have an “airiness” to them that did not exist back in his original Blink-182 days.  The backing music is at times trance-like and their album pretty much makes me feel like I should be in space.  While I don’t mind their sound, I definitely like Blink-182’s raw punk rock vibe better.
So when I first heard “Up All Night,” I couldn’t help but pick up on the Angels & Airwaves-like vocals that DeLonge has seemingly been unable to ditch.  However, when the full album was released on Sept. 27, I was pleased to find that with the help of vocalist/bassist Mark Hoppus, Blink recovered some of it’s old sound with that classic garage band feel.


Travis Barker’s insane consistency on the drum kit also helped take me back to the days of “Enema of the State” and “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.”
If you’re a fan of Angels & Airwaves, I’d suggest listening to the first track, “Ghost on the Dance Floor” and the third track “Up All Night.”  DeLonge clearly forgot to switch his style from his new band back to his old and in my opinion it takes away from the musicianship of the song.  Hoppus’ vocals on “Up All Night” do save it for me a little bit, however.
For that classic punk rock Blink sound, check out “Heart’s All Gone” or pretty much any song on the second half of the album.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give “Neighborhoods” a 7.  Welcome back Blink! I missed you.

Death Cab for Cutie stays classy, brings records to life

Looking back on it, I regret the fact that I really only started listening to Death Cab for Cutie about a year ago. Truthfully, they took awhile to grow on me, but now I’m completely obsessed.

The class and precision musicianship of this band are the best I’ve ever seen or heard, and I was lucky enough to experience them live at the Pageant on Oct. 2.

The show opened with Telekinesis who, like Death Cab, are from the Seattle area.  Drummer and vocalist Michael Lerner thanked his former drum teacher and Death Cab drummer, Jason McGerr and guitarist Chris Walla for helping them break out in the touring scene. Walla also produced Telekinesis’ self-titled album.

Telekinesis has a sound similar to Death Cab, but less refined. I also tend to appreciate lead singers who simultaneously play the drums, so as far as openers go, Telekinesis was decent.

Death Cab walked on the stage about 20 minutes after Telekinesis’ set was done.  There setup was simple and various colored lights illuminated their places. They opened with “I Will Possess Your Heart,” which began with an intriguing instrumental piece that immediately had the crowd moving.

Lead singer Ben Gibbard took a moment to talk about his love for record stores and how important they are to the music industry. He then threw in a Cardinals game update, which of course delighted the St. Louis crowd. From then on it was clear he had won the audience’s heart.

For much of the set I kept my eyes on Jason McGerr’s flawless drumming style and Chris Walla’s subtle yet effective work on the strings and keys.  Walla, who produced one of my favorite records, Tegan and Sara’s “The Con,” is a prominent engineer in the folk rock business. His musicianship is also outstanding.

Except for the fact that I was packed like a sardine in the back of the pit area for most of the time courtesy of the guy in front of me, the crowd was great. It was nice to finally be at a concert where I didn’t have to worry about crowd surfers or losing a tooth.

A quick set change in between bands and a perfectly executed Death Cab set made the experience even better.  Good company and the fact they played my favorite song, “Cath…” made for a wonderful night.

A rockin’ road trip to Indiana

Uproar FestivalWhen the tour dates of the 2011 Rockstar Uproar Tour were announced over the summer, I was surprised to see St. Louis absent from the list.

The tour featured Hell or Highwater, Art of Dying, Black Tide, Sevendust, Escape the Fate, Bullet for My Valentine, Seether, Three Days Grace and Avenged Sevenfold.

As a fan of nearly every band on the tour, I decided it would be worth it to purchase tickets for the Noblesville, Indiana date.  About three days after I bought the tickets, a St. Louis date was announced. Just my luck.

Anyway, I decided to stick with my road trip decision, so on Sept. 16 I packed my bags and headed east.  The concert wasn’t until the next day (Saturday) so my concert trip ended up being more of a family weekend vacation.

My sister, who is a die-hard Avenged Sevenfold fan, was extremely excited that the band would be headlining the tour, therefore having the longest set time.

I, on the other hand, was stoked to see Three Days Grace again because of their intriguing live performance.

My sister and I are frequent concertgoers, and we had seen almost every band prior to the show, so we had an idea of what we were getting ourselves in to.

After a late start, we arrived at the venue during mid-afternoon.  By the time we fought through the long lines, the first three side stage bands had already performed.

We approached the stage as Art of Dying was belting out tunes, and I was not impressed. Since my sister shared the same opinion, we decided it would be best to make our way toward the main stage before the massive crowd started to head that way.

They opened the main stage at 5 p.m. and Escape the Fate began at 5:15 p.m. The band, who dropped their original singer after he was sent to prison for a probation violation, presented a new sound from what I was used to on their first albums. About halfway through the set I decided the new singer didn’t do Escape the Fate’s style justice, and I was unimpressed.

Next up was Bullet for My Valentine. After hearing, and liking them at Pointfest a year or two ago, I figured I would be equally impressed this time around. I once again enjoyed my experience with the Welsh rock stars; especially lead singer Matt Tuck’s unique vocals.

Seether hit the stage after a short break to change the set arrangement.  As probably one of the most understated bands I’ve ever seen, Seether front man Shaun Morgan simply walks on stage, guitar in hand, and stands at his Christmas light strewn microphone stand while playing song after song, with almost no banter in between.  Even though their set is typically less than visually appealing, the raw vocals and catchy tunes kept me from falling asleep.

My personal favorite, Three Days Grace, took the stage next. By this time the majority of the crowd was fairly drunk, and I was ready to drown out their obnoxious screams with some of my favorite songs.

Even though they belted out overplayed tunes like “Animal I Have Become” and “Pain,” they made up for it with newer song “The Good Life” and one of my favorites, “Never Too Late.”  Singer Adam Gontier’s uniquely rough vocals never fail to impress me.

Headliner Avenged Sevenfold topped off the night, and the crowd went crazy the entire time.  Their heavy rock riffs and singer M. Shadow’s mysterious vocals were highlighted by a tribute to their friend and former drummer, the Rev, who the band lost in 2009 to an overdose.

I admire these guys for pushing through an extremely difficult time and producing arguably their best album yet, Nightmare, which is mostly written by and dedicated to the Rev.

Avenged Sevenfold is one of the only true alternative rock bands who have stuck to their sound and playing style from the start and even though their type of music isn’t my favorite, I have a lot of admiration for them.

The 2011 Rockstar Uproar Tour was worth the ticket price and the weekend trip to Noblesville. Indiana definitely knows how to rock.

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