The Gardens & Villa show on Wednesday, April 16, at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall, left me with a rather weird taste in my mouth. Although the evening was filled with great music from two amazing bands, the ambiance left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, the low turnout affected the vibe of the audience as well as the performers, with the overall mood of the night being that of utter indifference.
Opening the show was Boston-based Vundabar. The indie-rock three-piece, composed of Brandon Hagen (vocals, guitar), Drew McDonald (drums), and Zack Abramo (bass), played a set consisting of tracks off their debut LP, Antics. While the songs were fast-paced and heavy, the band’s energy did not mirror that of their sound. And unfortunately, the few concertgoers in attendance remained in their seats, awkwardly far from the stage, throughout the band’s performance.
Vundabar, clearly annoyed and put off by this, made a few oblique remarks alluding to the fact that the crowd was less than lively, presumably in hopes of getting a more pumped or enthusiastic reaction, but sadly, their attempt failed. After playing catchy and memorable songs like “Greenland,” “Holy Toledo,” and “Sad Clown,” Vundabar concluded their set rather abruptly, with Hagen breaking a couple of guitar strings and gruffly calling it quits.
It is completely understandable that the band would be so disappointed, and I do not hold their attitude that evening against them. I greatly enjoyed Vundabar’s surf-rock sound, and I hope to have the chance to see them again in concert — hopefully with a livelier and more interested crowd. This band certainly deserved more recognition for their talent, and I recommend trying to catch one of their shows in the future. The band, who will be on tour in Europe in May and June (with a handful of festivals thrown in as well), have the potential to become quite successful, so be on the lookout for big things to come from Vundabar!
After a brief intermission, Santa Barbara, Calif., natives Gardens & Villa took the stage. Chris Lynch (vocals, guitar, flute), Adam Rasmussen (synthesizer), Shane McKillop (bass, vocals), Levi Hayden (drums), and Dustin Ineman (keyboards, vocals) did their best to raise the energy in the room, managing to get much of the crowd on their feet. Opening with “Purple Mesas” off their new record, the band played a set including songs from their self-titled debut album, Gardens & Villa, and recent sophomore effort, Dunes.
The five-piece, known for their attractive synthpop sound, played fan favorites “Black Hills,” “Orange Blossoms,” and “Spacetime,” which drew some excited cheers from the audience. Gardens & Villa’s sound remained crystal clear and mesmerizing throughout, as they performed other notable songs off the new record, including “Domino” and “Colony Glen.” For some songs Lynch swapped his guitar for a flute, adding to the band’s light and airy vibe.
Similarly to Vundabar, put perhaps less so, Gardens & Villa were clearly affected by the crowd’s low energy. Although their sound isn’t exactly conducive to the standard high-energy, get-on-your-feet-and-dance performance — their tone is more subdued and trancelike — it would have been nice if the crowd at least energetically cheered after each song. As a result, Gardens & Villa’s set ended rather awkwardly, with one lone concertgoer chanting “Encore! Encore!” and the band slowly leaving the stage.
Although I was disappointed with the show’s ambiance, I greatly enjoy the music of both bands, and being able to see them perform some of my favorite songs live was a treat for me. Gardens & Villa is an internationally touring band that have garnered critical acclaim far and wide for their music, and Vundabar is an up-and-coming band who have gained much popularity in their hometown of Boston, even opening for Mac DeMarco recently. In short, both bands deserved a far more populous and enthusiastic audience on Wednesday, and it was unfortunate that both left the stage undoubtedly disappointed.
-Chloe Doyle, WMUA 91.1
Dirty Heads, Feist, and more!
Danny Brown @ Pearl Street — Northampton, MA (8:30pm)
Sugar Biscuit (ft. DJ Le Fox) @ The Basement — Northampton, MA (10pm)
Lechior Benefit Show (ft. Banditas, Fancy Trash ) @ Flywheel — Easthampton, MA (7pm)
Chris Pureka @ The Parlor Room — Northampton, MA (7pm)
Dirty Heads @ Pearl Street — Northampton, MA (8pm)
Feist @ Calvin Theatre — Northampton, MA (8pm)
On Tuesday March 11, peace activist Frances Crowe and “Democracy Now!" anchor Amy Goodman spoke at Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts. The event encompassed Crowe’s 95th birthday celebration, and included an interview with Crowe given by Goodman herself.
Crowe’s interview focused on many aspects of her life as an activist; from her initial anti-war effort following World War II to her most recent work at Vermont Yankee Power Plant. It also gave a look into her personal life, her time spent in the Pioneer Valley, and how she brought “Democracy Now!” to the valley.
Goodman spoke on the role of journalism and media in a democratic society. She stressed the importance of independent media saying “There is a reason why our profession is the only one explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, because we’re supposed to be the check and balance on power.” She also touched upon the third anniversary of the Fukashima incident, corruption in the media, and what it means to be an activist. All were fitting themes for a night honoring a woman like Frances Crowe.
WMUA News directors Despina Durand and John O’Neil also spoke onstage with Democracy Now! producer and WMUA alumnus Mike Burke. They discussed the challenges of producing a live daily newscast, often booking guests only hours in advance - and dropping everything in an instant when news breaks. They also talked about Mike’s transition from student media into his professional career - working at WMUA; the Collegian; and founding The Indypendent and Flywheel Easthampton.
Check out all the photos HERE
Deer Tick, California X, Potty Mouth, and more!
Brooks Williams @ The Parlor Room — Northampton, MA (8pm)
Comedian Hannibal Buress @ Hu Ke Lau — Chicopee, MA (7pm)
Deer Tick @ Pearl Street — Northampton, MA (8:30pm)
Antigone Rising @ Iron Horse Music Hall — Northampton, MA (7pm)
California X, Potty Mouth, and more @ Flywheel — Easthampton, MA
Shannon McNally @ Iron Horse Music Hall — Northampton, MA (7pm)
Image: Deer Tick (VICE)
If you weren’t able to make it out to Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall on Feb. 26, then you certainly missed out on an unforgettable evening. Surfer Blood, the indie rock band from Florida known for their surf rock tone, brought the house down with a set pulling from the band’s two LPs, Astro Coast and Pythons, as well as their EP, Tarot Classics.
The evening began with a solid performance by Lake Worth, Florida-based indie rock band Wake Up. Their set, consisting of roughly 10 songs, featured tracks from their upcoming debut EP, Forever Home, which is slated for release on Mar. 11. While their stage presence left a bit to be desired, they more than made up for it with standout songs like “Asleep for Days” and “Bad Days.” The energy, although low at the beginning, did increase throughout their set, with lead singer Evan Mui (vocals and guitar) even breaking a string at one point, while Bryan Adams (drums), Bobby Yapkowitz (vocals and guitar), and Austen Bemis (bass) rounded out the band’s addictive garage rock sound.
Following Wake Up was Brooklyn, New York-based indie rock band Fort Lean. The band performed a set consisting of tracks from their self-titled EP, Fort Lean, and their most recent release, Change Your Name. Fort Lean had dynamic and vibrant energy throughout, with Keenan Mitchel (vocals and guitar) delivering lively washed out vocals. Sam Ubl (drums), Zach Fried (guitar), Jake Aron (bass), and Will Runge (keyboard, guitar) rounded out the psych-pop/rock sound of the band, with each member of this five-piece group keeping the energy fast paced and lighthearted. My favorite track, “Dreams (Never Come True),” showcased Mitchel’s vocals the best, and saw Fried holding the weight of the song on his shoulders as he provided the uncomplicated and flawless guitar riffs that held the track together. With two EPs under their belt and live shows quickly garnering them attention, this band promises to continue to deliver a steady stream of solid indie rock tunes with the release their debut LP in the near future.
Finally, it was Surfer Blood’s turn to take the stage, and they delivered a seamless performance consisting of fan-favorite songs “Floating Vibes” and “Weird Shapes.” The crowd, noticeably larger and livelier than earlier in the evening, was on their feet and dancing throughout the roughly 12-song set, while the group kept the energy high with little to no break between songs.
One notable moment was when frontman John Paul Pitts (vocals and guitar), during the band’s performance of “Take It Easy,” jumped off the stage, climbed the railings, and waded through the crowd. After a few embraces, a couple of one-on-one serenades, and a swig of one woman’s beer, Pitts returned to the stage to finish off a truly memorable performance.
Thomas Fekete (guitar), Kevin Williams, (bass), and Tyler Schwarz (drums) rounded out the band’s grungy washed-out surf-rock sound and brought to life popular songs like “Demon Dance” with a lively spin. After they played their last song of the set, Surfer Blood soon returned to the stage to deliver two encore performances. Up first was “Gravity,” but the more notable of the two was the penultimate song, “Anchorage.” Venturing out into the crowd once more, this time with guitar in hand, Pitts and crew kept it loud and fast right until the end.
-Chloe Doyle, WMUA 91.1
On Nov. 9, I was fortunate enough to witness GRiZ as he provided a stellar performance at Northampton’s Pearl Street Nightclub, elegantly confirming how electronic music is pushing forward in ever possible directions, influencing and being influenced by every style of sound an artist wishes to delve into.
Enter the force that is GRiZ: Armed with a classically-trained saxophone and a forward approach towards music, he coolly serves his brand of 70’s soul and jazz-infused electronica to those who lend an ear. With vivid, bright, soundscapes like his, people ARE listening, not to mention his groovy basslines that somehow manage to combine the griminess of Noisia’s reese and the downright funkiness of Ron Carter.
The show had quite a tasteful and diverse list of openers: The resident DJ got the crowd that was just trickling in, settled with some deep house. Then came The Floozies, the future funk duo of Matt & Mark Hill of Kansas. They did a quality job hyping the audience up with a combination live, funky, polyrhythmic drumming from Matt and DJ-ing and bass-playing from Mark. In my opinion, their jazzy sound made them perfect for a GRiZ concert. It was only after the concert that I learned that these guys were signed to Liberated Music, GRiZ’s record label! Given the fact that most of their tunes are available for free online, I strongly suggest that they be checked out!
Up next was bass music duo, The Pegboard Nerds, cranking up the room’s energy level. I found them through their record label, Monstercat, and absolutely dug their aggressive, bleepy tunes that ranged from heavy dubstep to slick drum n’ bass! I must say, they did not disappoint live! Going one heavy tune after the next, these blokes showcased their DJ-ing and production skills with an extremely clean mix.
Finally, the moment peeps had been waiting for. Snapback baseball hat, setup with a drum machine, a CDJ controller and a saxophone: GRiZ had arrived. Starting off with a tune off his Rebel Era Album (the main focus of this tour), GRiZ floored all instantly. Bright soul loops skillfully sampled from an 80’s funk record, embedded in a grimy, beat-heavy backing track. GRiZ had elements of every performance that preceded him that evening. Beyond that, I was amazed by his ability to harmonize with all his tracks, using his saxophone. From playing basic chords as accompaniment, to exquisite elaborate solos that went perfectly with his more spacey tracks, this man played it all. And if that was not enough, he had an epic light show to go with it. Tiles of triangular LED panels that quite reminded me of Feed Me’s Teeth setup, were synched with the music; a brilliant performance in all respects.
I feel like the diversity in his set was noteworthy. Besides all the future funk goodness of his rebel era and mad liberation albums, he went back to his Detroit roots and played a good amount of hip hop in his own unique style. A country tune sat well in his set as well, as everyone whipped out their square dance moves to the strumming!
GRiZ and all the others who were part of the tour absolutely smashed it and proved that versatility of electronic music. Go support him and his crew, I say! They’re all set to go way beyond where they are now and that time will be soon. Crowd-slaying at its finest.
Check out GRiZ HERE
-Aman Sardana, WMUA 91.1
On Oct. 4, Northampton was graced with the presence of Baths, who is currently touring in support of his new album “Obsidian”. Baths is the solo project of Will Wiesenfeld, who uses a mix of synthesizers, drum machines, samples and loops to create a dark yet poppy canvas for his emotional falsettos. Weisenfeld garnered his reputation with the release of his 2010 debut “Cerulean”. His live shows are known for being high energy, with Baths being extremely active onstage.
The night began with openers Time Wharp and Groundislava playing sets of straightforward laptop produced dance tracks; resting on the crutches of overused low-pass filters, beat repeats, and a vocal sample that somehow made its way into every single one of Groundislava’s songs.
Regardless, Baths put on a show worth waiting for. When he eventually took the stage, he warned the crowd, “I’m really sick, so I’m sorry if my voice isn’t good.” He didn’t need to offer that caveat, as he proceeded to put on an emotive performance, with crooning vocals that could have been record quality. New to the Baths live performance on this tour, was the addition of a guitarist/auxiliary performer, who was able to relieve Will of some of his duties and allowed him to focus on delivering his vocals and piano parts.
The set list featured predominantly recent material, including “Miasma Sky”, “No Eyes”, and “Phaedra”. A personal favorite was the powerful rendition of “No Past Lives” that punctuated the bombastic feel of the performances with a brief moment of quiet, if only for a few bars.
Baths kept the energy up for the entire performance, with little downtime between songs. There was no banter with the audience, no long-winded introductions, just delivery of the music to an attentive audience. Baths performance was a testament to the idea that electronic music doesn’t need to be party accessory, or the backdrop to some strange neon fashion show, but that it can be a medium for real emotional and artistic expression.
-Matthew Thornton, WMUA 91.1
It has come to the end for me. I’ve spent three years at UMass and one at NYU and now it’s time to graduate. I wouldn’t have gotten through these four years without the help of some music. Here are, by year, the four most important albums to my college experience:
Freshman Year: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
As I said in the introduction, I spent my freshman year at NYU. I moved to NYC at arguably the height of the Brooklyn music scene, with bands like the Dirty Projectors, Neon Indian and Real Estate all coming to prominence at that time. I instantly fell in love with Merriweather and the band after being introduced by several of my new friends. The weird, psychedelic sounds seemed to fit perfectly with my new college life, and many a bus ride back home was spent with Merriweather blasting through my headphones.
Sophomore Year: Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues
I am not sure if David Byrne knows about his following at UMass, but he is a popular man here. It seems like listening to the Talking Heads during your time at UMass is almost a right of passage, as I continue seeing students younger than me discovering and loving the band in the same way I did. Parties, work shifts, and many other gatherings were soundtracked by Speaking in Tongues and continue to be today.
Junior Year: Maps & Atlases - You and Me and the Mountain
Fall of my junior year was the first time I had a radio show. The show’s focus changed several times before I went on the air, and at one point was supposed to be all “mathrock”. I found this gem of an EP while researching mathrock bands and instantly became obsessed. The complicated folk proved easy listening and a good companion to many nights of late studying and paper writing. Listening to it today still evokes a feeling back to that time.
Senior Year: John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
Listening to music and trying to keep up with what’s “hot” is exhausting. Sometimes it’s nice to look back and listen to what’s already been done instead of constantly trying to find something new. That’s how I have spent most of my final year of college, and it was highlighted best during finals of the fall semester when I listened to A Love Supreme non-stop for a week while writing papers. This emotional and beautiful album was the perfect backdrop not only for paper writing, but for a distinct period of my life coming to a close.
-Matt Perry, General Manager of WMUA 91.1
By Ryan Reddy
The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival is a place for fanatics of extreme music to gather and get together for 3 days of music. Everyone from Opeth, to Suicidal Tendencies, to the Dillinger Escape Plan, to Katatonia played and played well. This year’s festival was full of incredible death metal bands as well as many hardcore bands where their roots of punk are very obvious. The energy in the crowd at this show was incredible. The crowd was into every band that played from the openers that played at noon to Opeth that finished up the show at 12:30am.
I was only fortunate enough to attend the show on Saturday. I picked this day due to the incredible talent in this lineup. The Dillinger Escape Plan is by far my favorite band to see live. The energy the band brings to the stage while keeping the song so tight. They’re music is incredibly technical and they are able to play it while “doing it live” on stage as they like to call it. Greg Puciato, the lead singer, stands on the rail in front of the crowd and screams into people’s faces. This is all while people are charging the front and climbing over the pile of people. Ben Weinman also absolutely loses it on stage flailing around as if he was on fire. There is a reason that Greg was rated as metals best front man by metal sucks. (http://www.metalsucks.net/2013/04/16/the-top-25-modern-metal-frontmen-the-entire-list-in-one-place/)
There were also many bands that I was not very familiar with that put on great shows. The band Týr was one that really impressed me. They are a Scandinavian metal band who played a style that reminded me much of a mash up of typical Scandinavian metal with a touch of Iron Maiden. They had that gallop going that Iron Maiden always had and it was very cool to hear. Also their stage performance was very intimidating. Standing in the crowd you felt like you were part of some sort of ritual which was very strange, but very interesting. The Contortionist is another band that really impressed me. They had a touring vocalist, Mike Lessard, who normally plays with Last Chance to Reason singing for them. Personally I think that he is a better vocalist than their former vocalist Jonathan Carpenter. Lessard has an incredible vocal range and has a great stage presence.
Opeth was another band that was incredibly impressive, though I did expect that coming in to the show. they are always ready to put on a good show even though their music has been calming down recently with their last album release “Heritage.” They killed it on stage while also having lead singer Mikael Åkerfeldt making jokes and having a great time doing what he loves on stage.
This show was one that blew me away with the amount of talent that was at this one show. I was gladly part of one of the best shows I have ever seen along with one of the most intense crowds I have ever been a part of. The wide array of metal and hardcore was awesome due to being very interested in this type of music. The stage presence of all the bands was incredible. This is defiantly a festival I want to return to for many years to come.