Concert Preview: Michael Kiwanuka at Park West

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michael kiwanuka

 

Editorial note: The following is a guest post from our friend and Live Fix contributor Moira McCormick who recently sat down to chat with Michael Kiwanuka before his gig in New York.  

 

“I’m just enjoying the roller coaster,” says Michael Kiwanuka, a few hours before the Sept. 18 opening concert of his current U.S. tour, at Webster Hall on New York City’s Lower East Side. And what a ride it’s been – the coaster seems to be in in perpetual ascent, heading up and up and up, with no sign of having reached the peak.

The 25-year old British-Ugandan singer, songwriter, and guitarist, who plays Park West tomorrow night, has been garnering heaps of positive attention in his native England ever since being discovered by the Bees’ Paul Butler. Butler, struck by Kiwanuka’s arresting amalgam of folk, soul, jazz, and blues – delivered in a husky, lived-in croon that belies his tender years – began producing Kiwanuka at his studio on the Isle of Wight.

The sessions resulted in two EPs on folk-rockers Mumford and Sons’ Communion label last year. Then, after being hand-picked by Brit soul sensation Adele as the opening act for her 2011 U.K. tour, Kiwanuka went on to earn the same high-profile honor that Adele had captured in ’08: he won the BBC Sound of 2012 poll this past spring. He then released, to wide-ranging acclaim, his first full-length album, “Home Again” – highlighted by its enrapturing leadoff track, the flute- and horn-adorned “Tell Me a Tale.” Much international touring ensued, including first-time jaunts to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, Scandinavia, and the U.S. – where Kiwanuka appeared at Lollapalooza in August.

“Chicago’s my second-favorite city, next to New York,” Kiwanuka remarks, surveying the homey East Village tearoom called Podunk where this interview’s taking place, and digging into a light but fortifying set of sandwiches and scones, washed down with a pot of Darjeeling.

While ensconced in Chicago in early August, Kiwanuka not only toughed out his midday Lolla set (“It was baking hot,” he remembers, “but a really fun gig”) and caught evening headliners the Black Keys (whose singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach had produced the “Home Again” track “Lasan”). He managed to spend three of his four days in the Windy City geeking out over antique guitars (purchasing one, too) at the Rock N Roll Vintage shop on Lincoln Avenue; when in town, he’s also a frequent customer of sprawling rarities store Chicago Music Exchange. “Other than playing guitar, just learning about and seeing guitars is something I can do all day. I can drive people crazy,” he laughs. “I love it.”

 

 

Kiwanuka was born in 1987, to a mother and father who’d escaped the despotic reign of Uganda’s Idi Amin in the ’70s and moved to England. While he recently discovered that cousins on his father’s side had played guitar in Ugandan bands, his parents “didn’t really listen to music when we [an older brother and he] were younger,” says Kiwanuka. “We had a record player, but that broke when we were really young. And it wasn’t on the list of priorities to fix; they thought maybe we could use the money in another way. So the music I started listening to was pure Western guitar music, in secondary school…That’s why there’s not really much out-and-out Ugandan influence in my music.” (Kiwanuka’s recordings are played on Ugandan radio, however and even though, according to the artist, there’s a scarcity of record stores in that East African nation, “My mum takes some over” on her regular visits to the homeland.)

Young Michael was raised in a musically significant area of London called Muswell Hill, renowned for having produced the Kinks. When it is suggested that Kiwanuka’s the second most-famous export of Muswell Hill, he’s delighted – and humble.

“Hopefully,” says Kiwanuka, “if I can keep going, if I can make a few more records, then maybe I can get near the Kinks. I mean,” he adds with a grin, “the Kinks will [always] be the godfathers of Muswell Hill.” Incidentally, Kinks frontman Ray Davies himself personally presented Kiwanuka with his music diploma when he graduated from secondary school at Fortismere, which was Davies’ own alma mater in its previous incarnation as the Creighton School. “He’s, like, the honorary Fortismere guy,” Kiwanuka remarks. “He hands out awards and stuff.”

 

Having taken up rock guitar himself at age 11, Kiwanuka says he began gigging around London in a series of cover bands when he was 16, “playing for 50 pounds a night, trying to get into the music scene that way.” Then he dug deeper, for a time, into his fascination with another quintessential American genre, studying jazz guitar for about half of the four-year course at London’s Royal Academy of Music. “There’s a lot of dedication to being a jazz musician, so I thought I wasn’t really gonna put all the time in it that was needed,” explains Kiwanuka. Plus, he says he loved Radiohead, Nirvana, and Pink Floyd as much as he did Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis, and the more narrowly circumscribed curriculum at RAM “didn’t really fit the road I wanted to take.”

 

Now 20, Kiwanuka went back to playing rock guitar around London – and he finally began to sing. For a musician whose soul-burnished pipes have been enthusiastically compared to those of long-gone greats like Otis Redding, and Chicagoans Curtis Mayfield and Terry Callier, Kiwanuka had what in retrospect is an inexplicably scant regard for his own vocal ability.

“I never really sang for anyone, or to anyone; I didn’t even know if I could,” he says, earning incredulous looks from the others at his table. “I mean, I was in a choir, but I went because my friend Johnny went. I couldn’t read a note – and when I had to sing, like, a solo, I’d just muck about. People thought I was this…joker, which I kind of was. But I just didn’t want it to sound like crap.”

At this point Kiwanuka had been expressing his rock-guitarist inner self with an acoustic instrument for several years, having come across an unplugged, alternate version of Otis Redding’s classic single “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay” when he was 14. “It was on a covermount CD from Mojo magazine’s ‘Soul Riot’ issue,” he says, referring to the August 2001 edition of the esteemed U.K. music mag, which included a CD compilation of sociopolitical soul from the ‘60s and ‘70s. It included such tracks as “When Will We Be Paid (For the Work We’ve Done)” by Chicago’s Staple Singers, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Luv N’ Haight,” and Sam Dees’ “Why Must We Live in Chains.” Prior to hearing “Soul Riot,” Kiwanuka says, “I didn’t know music had anything to do with anything that was going on socially.”

The album offered another revelation: the aforementioned “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay (Take 2).” “And this song came on,” the artist recounts, “and it was like, whoa, what’s this? It had a guitar, an acoustic guitar. I’d been listening to, like, the Nirvana b-sides album, ‘Incesticide,’ so I was used to acoustic guitar; I knew that sound. But the singing was so kind of soulful – I’d never heard singing like that. And it had horns and a saxophone in it. It really lit my imagination, so that was pretty much the main thing as to what changed my route [from electric to acoustic]. For some reason I love the intimacy of acoustic guitar.”

Now writing and performing his own music, in addition to serving as sideman for drummer James Gadsen (who formerly played with Bill Withers, another acoustic-soul man to whom Kiwanuka’s likened) and Tinie Tempah producer Labrinth, the burgeoning artist saw the components of his career locking into place in seemingly preordained fashion. From the nigh-effortless way his five-piece band fell together, to “the first EP’s in the U.K. up to [the present], it’s been a gradual climb – which has been great. Doors kept opening at the right time; I was meeting people I needed to meet when I needed to meet them.” And said people have included a certain titan of hip-hop who hails from Chicago.

“There’ve been a few people now who’ve heard the album,” Kiwanuka relates, “and they’ll call and ask if I want to be on a track of theirs. Mostly I say no…but recently I said yes.

“I haven’t actually told anyone,” Kiwanuka confides. “I don’t know if it’s meant to be top-secret or not; I don’t know if I’ll get in trouble, but hey, that’s life.

“We were in Los Angeles,” he continues, “and we finished this gig, and our manager said, ‘Oh, Kanye West likes your album. He wants you to go to Hawaii in a few days and work on music’.” I was, like, ‘That’s mad – I want to go see what it’s like, and if it falls apart, it falls apart.’

“And I was terrified – and I went to Honolulu, for five or six days. I think I’m going back again; it was a good experience. He’s very natural, and in the end, the song that he seemed to like [the most among] what I worked on – which I have to finish – was the most natural to me as a musician.

“Kanye doesn’t [just] throw these beats,” Kiwanuka continues, “and say, ‘Hey, man, can you sound like John Legend, or Adam Levine?’ He’ll say, ‘I’m into your album; can you do what you do? It might work, or maybe it won’t.’

“It’s about building on something that’s natural, organic; once you can do that, if it is good, then it’ll be good forever. Someone like Kanye goes so far because he understands that.”

Following tea and this interview – and before his gig at Webster Hall – Kiwanuka’s off to tour Jimi Hendrix’s fabled Electric Lady Studios, not too far from the tearoom. “He’s just incredibly creative,” says Kiwanuka of the matchless guitarist, who died in 1970. “We listen to him a lot before gigs, in the dressing room – the live ‘Band of Gypsies’; I like Buddy Miles’ singing. “Electric Ladyland” – I love that album…

“It’s been a really cool year, man,” Kiwanuka reflects, adding, “My biggest dream is to have a career. My favorite artists had careers – Dylan, Hendrix, Marvin Gaye.

They made music, they changed and morphed, they grew as artists. Real artists.”

Watching Kiwanuka Evolve

It will be exciting to watch Kiwanuka grow and evolve as a live performer as he makes his way across the U.S. this Fall.

And as I think more about Kiwanuka’s story thus far, like his cover band gigging as a teenager and his preshow Hendrix rituals, I wonder how those experiences will influence future shows and how those shows will influence his next album.

That said, here’s a few previous Live Fix explorations to take us deeper to explore those questions:

 

Share Your Story

If you’ve seen Kiwanuka live before or looking forward to catching his show during we’d invite you too share your concert experiences and thoughts in the comments below and we’ll include them in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Concert Preview: Lounge Ax Reunion Celebration

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Continuing our exploration of live rock history in Chicago, here’s news via the Chicago Tribune about a retrospective party celebrating the Lounge Ax, one of the Windy City’s central hubs and greatest venues for indie-rock in 90’s.

As Greg Kot reports:

The co-owners of the club, Sue Miller Tweedy and Julia Adams, will host the Lounge Ax Retrospective at saki, 3716 W. Fullerton, a Logan Square record store, gallery and performance space. They’ll pack it with memorabilia including posters and some of the countless photo-booth snapshots of rock bands that played the club during its heyday, including Pavement, Wilco, Shellac, Tortoise, Smog, the Sea & Cake and Yo La Tengo. A party is planned at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 and several bands will perform at 4 p.m. Aug. 11.

Sounds like a great time to celebrate and share stories. And if you had the pleasure of seeing a show there back in the day, let us know more about your Lounge Ax experience and we’ll share your stories on a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

Until then, check out these Live Fix Experiments that explore bands and concert moments related to Loung Ax reunion bash and other cool stuff about Chicago live music history:

 

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Concert Preview: A.V. Club, Hideout Block Party 2012

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hideout block party a.v. club 2012 festival

 

Our Hideout Block Party exploration continues as The Hideout and A.V. Club join forces for a combined summer festival set to take place on Sept 14 & 15 at the Hideout.

So far the line up includes:

Iron & Wine, Glen Hassard, Lee Fields and the Expression, The Corin Tucker Band, Waco Brothers, Redmoon Theater and more to be announced on June 25 with sponsors including Rock for Kids and the Onion.

Get more info about tickets and dates here.

And get ready for the show with these previous Live Fix experiments about the Hideout, previous Block Party summer festival experiences:

Are You Ready To Rock the Block Party?

What are your most memorable experiences at previous Hideout Block Parties? What bands are looking forward to seeing live this year?

Share your concert experiences and thoughts in the comments below, or call the concert fan hotline at 773-609-4341, and we’ll include them in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

 

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Concert Preview: iTunes Festival 2012

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iTunes Festival 2012 Free tickets

Continuing our exploration of virtual live music experiences and mobile apps, here’s news about the iTunes Festival 2012, one of the most interactive and mobile events of 2012.

For 30 days in September, 60 artists will perform live in London and fans can buy tickets to the event or watch the action live on their iPad, iPhone or iTouch. You can also stream the concerts to your big screen wirelessly using AirPlay and your Apple TV.

The lineup includes a wide range of pop, rock, hip hop and other artist like Jack White, Norah Jones, Usher, JLS, Noel Galagher, One Direction and more, all to perform live at the Roundhouse in North London.

According to the iTunes Festival Website “Tickets for the iTunes Festival are free. You can apply for as many gigs as you like…” on the lineup page.

And when you sign up you are entered for a chance to win the tickets to shows at the Roundhouse, but only UK residents can score the free tickets. For the rest of us, all the performances will be streamed live and recorded for download via the iTunes mobile apps.

That said, I’ll be keeping tabs on Jack White’s World Record attempt and watching to see if another Dave Grohl moment happens this year, so I’ll be tuning in on my iPod Touch to see how the shows go. And we invite you to share your iTunes Festival  2012 stories and virtual experiences in the comments below, so we can feature them in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Concert Preview: Getting Ready For Grouplove and Matt’s First Show at Metro

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It’s taken a while but we’re excited to share the news that our Bears vs Packers: Who Will Win A Free Show At Metro will continue next weekend as my cousin Matt and I head out to see Grouplove in Chicago.

To recap, I bet Matt a free show at Metro that the Bears would win and head to the Super Bowl 2011. Well, as you know the Bears lost and the Packers went on to win the Big Game.

And after a long and very careful decision process Matt has chosen to see Grouplove for his very first show at Metro. So will this adventure be like our other first time at Metro adventure?

Who knows? But either way we’ll certainly share all the details on a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

Until then, check out the video of Grouplove’s single “Colours,” and this live set from their recent visit on Letterman, both of which have got me thinking about what their live show will be like as a sold out crowd gathers to celebrate Matt’s first Metro gig.

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Concert Preview: Gotye Wants To Paint His Way Into Your Heart

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I found some more fodder for our recent experiment with love and live music.

It’s the video for the song “Someone That I Used To Know” by Austrialin musician Wally De Backer (aka Gotye) who will be touring the US for the first time this spring.

As one of the most creative music videos I’ve seen in awhile, it’s no surprise that it’s has racked up over 70 million views on YouTube. The song alone is mysterious and alluring, and the seductive visual storytelling just makes the experience even more provocative and engaging.

After watching just the first minute I immediately began to wonder…

How will Gotye transfer such a palpable and sensual video experience to his live show?

What will the shows teach us about what triggers our emotions during concerts?

What type of emotions will bubble up in the hearts of fans as Gotye’s performance unfurls on stage?

Will it lead fans to find and feel love at the show?

How will fans react to watching the video online versus experiencing the song live in concert?

Hey, Where’s The Body Paint?

After watching Gotye’s debut US performance on Jimmy Kimmel this past week, Kimbra was there to sing her part, but it doesn’t look like there’s any body paint being used to connect the video with the live show.

But again, just because the video isn’t being duplicated on stage doesn’t mean that it won’t be on constant rotation in fans’ minds during the show. As concert fans, our emotions usually kick in automatically, especially when we’re enticed by the memory of such a captivating video.

A Different Kind of Tour Primer

Yes, many bands have videos that precede their tours. But I think Gotye’s video is different because it is so visually stunning, sonically sensual and psychologically triggering. It has the power to conjure all sorts of strong emotions for fans subconsciously in ways other haven’t. And that’s what Gotye has going for him as he tours across the US and hopefully into journeys deep into the hearts of American fans.

What About The Emotional Fallout?

But there could be a downside to such a successful video.

What if fans come to the show expecting to have the same experience during the concert as they had while watching the video, and Gotye doesn’t deliver on those expectations?

We’ve all had moments where we watch a great video online only to be completely let down at the show. So could the same creative backfire happen to Gotye? Possibly. But I think something else will happen. And we’ll have to wait and see.

Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to hearing what you experience during the show so we can continue our exciting Gotye live experiment.

What’s Your Gotye story

Have you seen Gotye live? What did you feel during the concert? What other videos have created similar pre-concert emotional experiences for you?

Tell us what you think and share your concert experiences and thoughts about in the comments below, on Twitter @livefixmedia, on Facebook , Google Plus, or call the concert fan hotline at 773-609-4341, and we’ll include them in a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

Check out Goyte’s tour schedule and other tunes here, and watch his interview below via “Off Duty,” a new series from the Wall Street Journal.

Jimmy Kimmel US live debut

 

WSJ interview

 

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Old Town School Of Folk Music To Celebrate 55 Years With New Music Venue, Expansion

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old town school of folk music 55 years

Remember our Gate of Horn exploration? Well, shortly after that post we were honored when Frank Hamilton, one of the founders of The Old Town School of Folk Music and who was a part of the early folk scene in Chicago, dropped by to share his personal experience at the historic venue:

I was there. House Musician for the Gate for about a year. Played with Gibson, Mapes, behind Bud and Travis, Brother John Sellers, Alan Mills and John Carignan, Barbara Dane and others.
Grossman wanted to team me up as Odetta’s accompanist but I declined. Just as well. Bruce Langhorne did a great job. Gibson, Mapes and I were a folk trio there for a while before Hamilton Camp teamed up with Bob.

We’re excited to continue our exploration by sharing news via Chicago Tribune about the Old Town School School of Folk Music celebrating 55 years with a new music venue and expansion of it’s current Chicago home.

Next month, Old Town will open its fourth facility across from the school’s main buildings on the 4500 block of North Lincoln Avenue. The new 27,000-square-foot, $16 million, three-story facility and 150-capacity concert hall is scheduled to open Jan. 9, kicking off a 55-day series of events celebrating Old Town’s 55th anniversary.

You can get more info about the celebration here, a list of concerts here, and a special collection of live archives here.

We’re also pumped about the news because Colleen will be starting her guitar lessons there in January too. And we hope to have Hamilton on a future episode of Live Fix Radio to talk about his live experiences at Gate of Horn and the new venue and expansion.

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Concert Preview: Fishbone Debuts New Film in Chicago, Ready To Rock Bottom Lounge

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fishbone everyday sunshine documentary

Editorial note: The following is a guest post from our friend and Live Fix contributor Moira McCormick who recently saw the new Fishbone documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone and caught a gig by the band in L.A. And here’s a preview of what awaits Fishbone-heads as the film debuts in Chicago and Fishbone plays live tomorrow night, Dec. 10, at the Bottom Lounge.

 

LOS ANGELES—“Fish-bone is RED HOT! (clap-clap) Fish-bone is RED HOT! (clap-clap) Fish-bone is RED HOT! (clap-clap)”…

The revved-up chant beloved of those who love Fishbone is bouncing off the walls of the Bootleg Theater in downtown L.A. – Fishbone’s hometown – where the durable funk-punk-ska-soul-metal-pop band has just finished a warp-fueled set on this balmy late-October eve, their trademark anarchic energy undiminished after 30-plus years (and counting.)

Fishbone will, of course, retake the stage of this 1930s warehouse-turned-arts-center for a raucous encore – their shoulda-been-a-huge-hit “Sunless Saturday” – before the packed room resounds once again with, “Fish-bone is RED HOT! (clap-clap) Fish-bone is RED HOT! (clap-clap)”…

A couple hours earlier at the Bootleg, the chant was ringing out on a movie screen in the opening moments of “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone,” a new documentary (premiering in Chicago tonight for a one-week run at the  Gene Siskel Film Center.) The L.A. screening of “Everyday Sunshine,” – an inventive and absorbing chronicle of the band’s multifaceted history – was followed first by a Q & A with filmmakers Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, along with Fishbone founding members Norwood Fisher and Angelo Moore; and then by the intimate live set.

The appropriately-surnamed actor Laurence Fishburne narrates Fishbone’s tale, a blend of archival live footage and interviews, animation, home videos, TV news clips, music videos – and testimonials featuring many of Fishbone’s more commercially successful followers, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt, and Primus.

In tracing the band’s inception in South Central Los Angeles through their present-day incarnation, the narrative continually emphasizes Fishbone’s utter uniqueness. “It wasn’t rock, it wasn’t metal, it wasn’t hip-hop, it wasn’t funk – it was just some different shit,” states rapper Ice-T, who later stresses, “There was no ‘pre-Fishbone.’” At a time when the term “alternative rock” had come to mean “jangly white-boy guitar-pop bands”, Fishbone were the true alt-rockers.

“Everyday Sunshine” limns the historical context of the band’s formation, first by citing the 1940’s migration of Southern black folk fleeing the racism there for sun-soaked Los Angeles – only to become “confined to the flat, hot grid of South Central, Watts, and Compton, a legacy of segregation maintained by the LAPD.”

Then, mandatory busing in 1979 aiming to integrate the L.A. school system brought South Central kids to the overwhelmingly white schools of the San Fernando Valley, riling up bigoted white parents (depicted brandishing hate-filled signs sickeningly reminiscent of decades-earlier protests) – and bringing together bassist Norwood Fisher and singer-saxophonist-unrestrained id Angelo Moore.

Moore was a rarity at Woodland Hills’ Hale Junior High – a black student whose family actually lived in Woodland Hills – and he eagerly sought the companionship of Fisher, the South Central street kid who “scared the shit out of everyone,” as founding member Chris Dowd (keyboards, trombone, and vocals) puts it.

They bonded over mutual love of funk, in particular Parliament-Funkadelic bassist (and force of nature) Bootsy Collins, and one day Moore asked Fisher if he could join the fledgling band that the bassist and his brother, drummer Phillip “Fish” Fisher, had recently formed.

Fisher’s response was to yank a pomegranate (Moore insists it was a persimmon) off a nearby tree and smash it into Moore’s face before acceding to his request – the memory of which leading the present-day Fisher to marvel, “He asked me to be in my band – Angelo, one of the greatest front-men of all time!”

Next to join were guitarist Kendall Jones and the aforementioned Chris Dowd, who themselves had bonded over their mutual feelings toward punk: they loved it “as much as kids in the Valley,” according to Dowd. “We became each other’s musical allies.”

“Going to some of the punk-rock gigs, and bein’ in the mosh pit, was a really good reason to go berserk,” says Moore, who sported a Mohawk at the time. “You’re mad about the racism out here in the Valley, you the only black family out here, you got people every once in a while drivin’ by, callin’ you a nigger…that kind of shit gets to you every once in a while, man. When I got hip to slam-dancin’? Oh, I was all up in the mosh pit. Tryin’ to expel them demons.”

The film tracks Fishbone’s odyssey crashing the milk-white Los Angeles punk scene, blowing headliners off the stage before headlining themselves, becoming the hottest band in L.A. – and being snapped up by mighty major label Columbia Records while still in their teens. Fishbone’s self-titled debut, an EP that includes band classics like “Party at Ground Zero” and “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” (more on that one later), was released in 1985, when they were barely out of high school.

What “Everyday Sunshine” doesn’t touch on at this point is the story behind the band’s name, which was related to me by Norwood Fisher and Chris Dowd backstage after their first Chicago appearance(at premier showcase club Metro) – “a characteristically bacchanalian set” (as I noted later in the Fishbone profile I did for Creem magazine, in which I wrote that they sounded like “Funkadelic meets the Specials at Frank Zappa’s house and they all go to a Black Flag concert where Judas Priest is the warm-up act.”)

Anyway, the origin of the band name, according to Fisher, came from an episode of the ’70s sitcom “Good Times” (a fifth-season installment called “Requiem for a Wino.”) “What’s that guy who played Benson named?” Fisher queried, and Dowd and I chorused, “Robert Guillaume.”

“Yeah,” affirmed Fisher. “Robert Guillaume did an episode where he played this wino named Fishbone. He faked his own death and went to his own funeral as his widow.

“He would never lift his veil, and then somebody lifted his veil and they saw it was him; everybody got all pissed off and started giving him shit, and so he was like, ‘When I was dead, everybody loved me – why won’t you love me now that I’m alive?’ and everybody started giving him more shit. Finally he got through to them, and he said, ‘Why don’t you tell me you love me?’, and then everybody started singing this song: ‘Fishbone, we love you, we love, you, Fishbone!’ And we said, what better name for a band?”

“You shoulda heard the other ones we made up,” put in Dowd.

Back to “Everyday Sunshine,” in which a present-day Dowd explains how the escalating L.A. gang violence of the mid-’80s, fueled by crack cocaine and essentially ignored by law enforcement, helped shape Fishbone’s exuberant, extravagant, socially conscious eclecticism.

“You grow up black in a neighborhood where you see people get shot and the police don’t show up, you look at the world in a different way,” says Dowd. “I think we stylistically went so many different places because we want to unify everybody.”

And along with critical hosannas, Fishbone did enjoy a taste of mass popularity, scoring several MTV hits, and landing an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1991 – just before the release of their third Columbia album, “The Reality of my Surroundings.”

That LP – the only Fishbone release ever to crack the top 50 on Billboard’s album chart – spawned the feel-good, soul-deep song that became the documentary’s title, along with the marauding “Sunless Saturday,” which spawned a Spike Lee-directed music video.)

Fishbone also appeared at Lollapalooza in 1993, the same year guitarist Kendall Jones fell deeply under the influence of a religious cult led by his uber-Christian father – leading to “Everyday Sunshine”’s gripping illustrated sequence of the band’s attempted rescue of Jones, and Fisher’s subsequent trial on felony kidnapping charges.)

But Fishbone never achieved the next-big-thing status that so many believed – knew – was rightfully theirs.

As Primus bassist Les Claypool states near the beginning of “Everyday Sunshine,” “They should’ve been the band that went way beyond any of us that were influenced by them.”

Post-Kendall-crackup, the docu follows Fishbone’s continued attrition, as trumpeter-vocalist “Dirty Walt” Kibby quits, and then Fish – with founding members Fisher and Moore as the only original members left standing. “Norwood and I,” Moore reflects, as he’s driving along one of L.A.’s innumerable freeways, “are kinda like a married couple that wanta be divorced for a minute…but we can’t because we’re fuckin’ married.”

Angelo, for his part, is shown discovering a theremin while Fishbone is holed up in a recording studio with producer Dallas Austin, and becoming so enraptured with its ’50s-sci-fi weirdness that he makes it part of an electronic alter ego, Dr. Maddvibe.

This brings him into frequent conflict with the rest of Fishbone, particularly his till-death-do-us-part bassist bandmate. “I don’t want to be in a band with Dr. Maddvibe — I want to be in a band with fuckin’ Angelo,” gripes Fisher at one point. “I’m forced to be in a band with Dr. Maddvibe. Who I don’t want to be in a band with!” But Fishbone survives, despite the continued existence of Dr. Maddvibe.

The more commercially successful Fishbone followers interviewed in “Everyday Sunshine” have their own theories on why Fishbone never made it really big, as so many had predicted; what they boil down to are things like “too black for white people, too white for black people,” and so forth.

But what comes through most indelibly during the course of the film is simply that the band was just too good for its own good, given the prevailingly unadventurous and prejudiced tastes of the average rock fan. No Doubt’s Adrian Young observes, “If it’s not simple enough for the masses to grab onto, it’s too much for people to handle, musically.”

Living Colour’s guitarist extraordinaire Vernon Reid points out an unfortunate paradox. “Fishbone was such an incredible live experience: as good as the records are, nothing comes close to seeing Fishbone live” – which limited their ability to make a record a hit. And as original producer David Kahne delicately notes, “The system didn’t work for them like it did for other bands.” (Translation: if Fishbone had been white, the system would have worked just fine.)

But Fishbone has persisted and grown over the decades, personally as well as musically. “Everyday Sunshine” sports delightful footage of Angelo Moore Heely-skating, sax-duetting, trampolining and more, with his adored young daughter Cheyenne; and includes close-up sequences of Norwood Fisher commanding a surfboard.

Says the mono-dreadlocked bassist, “I had a very ghettoized mentality that surfing was some white-boy shit…ohhh, I’m glad I got past that one. Snowboarding and surfing are two of the most incredible joys of my life.”

The band has recently released a new seven-song EP/album, “Crazy Glue,” on the independent label DC-Jam, and they’re now touring with their current lineup: original members Fisher, Moore, and Kibby, along with John Steward (Fishbone’s drummer since 1999), guitarist Rocky George and keyboardist-vocalist Dre Gipson (both having joined in 2004), and new trombone player Jay Armant. And as evidenced by their blowtorch-hot set in L.A. last month, they are as jaw-dropping as ever live (Moore, by the way, must have an aging painting of his voice up in his attic.)

At L.A.’s post-screening Q&A session, an audience member – who says he’d first seen Fishbone when he was in high school – queries bluntly and admiringly, “How can you be standing here?” To which Fisher replies, “We came up believing in punk rock, believing in funk – George Clinton is still being George Clinton; the people I admire stayed on their road,” and Moore puts in, “I tried selling out a couple times, but it didn’t work; shit just stayed the same. You just might as well be yourself, anyway.”

Fisher adds, “If we played oldies, we could do the fair circuit. [We chose] the harder road, but we’re still trying the write the story for the next 20 years. I hope.”
And as Angelo Moore philosophically observes in “Everyday Sunshine,” “When Fishbone still plays, that’s a prayer answered right there. May not be exactly the way I wanted, but it’s there…Who said anything’s gonna be easy, anyway?”

Fishbone were in the news just a few weeks ago, when nitwit Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann was a guest on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” House band the Roots played the ditsily mendacious Rep. Bachmann to her seat with a wickedly brilliant musical choice: a lyric-less snippet of “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.”

She, of course, was oblivious, though subsequently there was something of an uproar. Norwood Fisher addressed the flap with the following official statement: “Although I may not be a Michelle Bachmann fan, I wish her no harm. In my opinion, you better be able to take a joke when you run for political office…Political satire comes in many forms; I’m honored that something my band wrote as teenagers can be applied to the political process in the new millennium.”

 

Special thanks to Moira for giving us the Fishbone scoop and you get a full listing of Everyday Sunshine screenings here.

Show Info:

Bottom Lounge
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2011 – 9:00PM
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
18 & Over, valid ID required for entry.

What’s Your Fishbone Story?

Have you seen Fishbone live? Got thoughts on the new roc doc? Let us know what you think and we’ll share your story during a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Concert Preview: K. Flay Can Rap Better Than Your Honor Roll Student

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We like girls who can rap, especially those who are from Chicago and graduated from Stanford.

That’s why tomorrow night we’re heading out to Subterranean to re-explore the live show of Chicago-native Katherine Flaherty (aka K.Flay). Colleen and I first discovered K. Flay’s cunning blend of hip hop, pop, rock and humorous rhymes back in March at SXSW. Out of the myriad blur of bands we saw at SXSW, her show was one of my favorites, so I had to dive deeper into her creative back story to discover what inspired her to start rapping and making beats.

As Jessica Hopper writes in her Chicago Tribune interview, K. Flay’s start was a personal and academic challenge:

The idea of rapping came out of a bit of academic discourse that Flaherty had with fellow students. “Some friends and I were having a discussion about voice, what makes a performer’s voice ‘authentic.’ I started thinking about how I could write to a certain formula, using my own background, being, demographically, who I am. Have my own authentic voice,” she says. “It was fun. At first it was more just like a tongue-twisting challenge. I was writing more, like, punch lines and things to make my friends laugh. Just doing stuff to be clever.”

All this said, we’re excited to see how her live performance has evolved over the last 8 months and I’m equally curious to see what’s in store with her new album Eyes Shut that’s due in 2012.

And as we continue our exploration into How Women Experience Live Music, we’ll also be chatting with K. Flay before the show about her sociology studying days at Stanford, growing up in Chicago and what she’s learned the most about connecting with a live audience since SXSW.

Our interview will be shared in future episode of Live Fix Radio, so if you have a question for K.Flay, post it below and we’ll be sure to ask it during our chat.

Check out K.Flay’s latest Official Beastie Boys remix and other clever tunes on her blog.

Show Info:

Subterranean
DOORS @ 9:00 PM | SHOW @ 9:30 PM | 17 & OVER
TICKETS: $10.00

2011 Tour Dates:
* with Grieves

Fri Nov 25 Chicago @ SubTerranean
Sat Nov 26 Pittsburgh @ Stage AE *
Mon Nov 28 Buffalo, NY @ Xtreme Wheelz *
Tue Nov 29 Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground Lounge *
Thu Dec 1 New York, NY @ Studio at Webster Hall *
Fri Dec 2 Northampton, MA @ Pearl Street *
Sat Dec 3 Pawtucket, RI @ The Met *
Sun Dec 4 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s *
Mon Dec 5 Boston, MA @ Middle East Downstairs *
Tue Dec 6 Hartford, CT @ Arch Street *
Wed Dec 7 Boston, MA @ Northeastern *
Thu Dec 8 Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel *
Fri Dec 9 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 *
Sat Dec 10 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade *
Sun Dec 11 Orlando, FL @ The Social *
Wed Dec 14 Dallas, TX @ House of Blues Cambridge *
Thu Dec 15 Austin, TX @ Stubb’s Jr *

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Support the Future of Live Music at the Rock For Kids Benefit Auction

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rock for kids benefit auction

 

As we told you before, we’re big fans of non-profit organization Rock for Kids because they do a fantastic job of helping kids learn how to play music and experience the life-changing thrill of performing live.

That said, RFK is a great cause and we wanted to pass along info about their 23rd Annual Rock N Roll Benefit Auction so you can help support their mission and get some sweet swag and concert tickets in the process.

Benefit tickets include: 

  • Admission to Live and Silent Auction
  • Reception and Buffet from 6PM – 7PM
  • Musical Performance by Rock For Kids students

When: Friday, December 02, 2011 6:00 PM

Where: Park West – 322 W Armitage

Ticket info: Your last chance to purchase $50 discounted early bird tickets ends on Monday, November 28th. After Monday the tickets go up to $75.

Here’s that very impressive list of auction items I mentioned:

Rock For Kids:

  • Two Tickets to the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles
  • Two Round Trip Southwest Tickets
  • One night at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles
  • Two official After-Party Tickets
  • Two passes to an exclusive CBS Radio Pre-Party (last year Mumford & Sons played this party)

THE WHOLE WILCO: CHICAGO WORLD TOUR 2011

Two Tickets to each of Wilco’s very sold out December Chicago concerts. Note: These tickets are non-transferable – this package is meant for a true fan!

Dates and Venues:
12/12 : Civic Opera 7:30pm w/ guest Nick Lowe
12/13 : The Riviera 8:00pm w/ guest Eleventh Dream Day
12/15 : The Vic 8:00pm w/ guest Jon Langford and Skull Orchard
12/16 : The Metro 8:00pm w/ guest The Paulina Hollers
12/18 : Lincoln Hall 8:00 pm w/ guest Fred Armisen

METRO VIP CONCERT OF THE MONTH

  • Tickets for you and a guest to one show a month at the Metro in 2012
  • VIP Seating for each of these shows
  • This package isn’t available anywhere but through the Rock For Kids auction
  • The Metro’s 30th anniversary – starting in July 2012 – is bound to mean a ton of amazing bands! You don’t want to miss this.

XRT ROCK & ROLL X-CURSION

  • 2 Guest Passes to all four days of Bonnaroo 2012, June 7-10 in Manchester, TN
  • 4 Nights of Prime Camping accommodations at Bonnaroo
  • Access to premium seating and viewing areas at each stage
  • Discounted Food and Drinks in the Backstage Guest Lounge and Restaurant
  • Please note: ground transportation not included.

THREE FLOYDS ULTIMATE DARK LORD DAY ADVENTURE

  • 2 hard-to-get tickets to Dark Lord Day – exact date TBD. (In 2011 it was in April)
  • 2 guaranteed large bottles of Dark Lord Stout (only available at the brewery one day per year, legendary status amongst beer connoisseurs)
  • 2 Dark Lord Day t-shirts
  • Limo ride for two to and from brewery in Munster, IN
  • LINCOLN HALL – VIP PASS

What more is there to say? This laminate will grant access to you and a guest for any concert at Lincoln Hall that your heart desires for the rest of your life! Never miss a Lincoln Hall concert again!

As well as great VIP experiences from:

The Autobahn Country Club
The Chicago Cubs
FEW Spirits
Million Dollar Quartet
Pitchfork Music Festival
and more…

 

These are fantastic items that any live music fan living in Chicago would love to have. And you can get more info on how to get tickets to the benefit event or bid online here.

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Concert Preview: RE:MIX LAB at River Arts Center

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Re:MIx Lab London Hollywood Holt

On Saturday, November 19th we’ll be checking out the RE:MIX LAB presented by Antenna Magazine at the River East Arts Center.

The RE:Mix LAB, fueled by the new Hyundai Veloster, is a multi-day, multi-media event, which will feature music, gaming, and film in support of the soon to be released RE:GENERATION music documentary.

Theophilus London will be performing live in addition to DJ sets by local Chicago favorites Team Bayside High and Hollywood Holt. Several tracks from London’s new album Timez Are Weird These Days have been on constant rotation in my 2011 playlist, and while we were at Lollapalooza 2011 we had the pleasure of dodging the downpour inside the Dell Lounge to catch a set by Hollywood Holt.

And knowing the good times we had at the WBEZ Hip Hop Block Party earlier this year, we’re looking forward to seeing how the collective groove all comes together at the River Arts Center.

As you know, we’ve been exploring how brands like Honda and Scion are innovating the live music experience and engaging fans at shows and during road trips, so we’ll be talking with the artists, Hyundai and the folks behind this RE:MIX LAB event, and we’ll share our chat with them on a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

Full info about the event is below. And if you have a question or a comment for any of artists or Hynaudi post it below and we’ll be sure to include it our chat.

PERFORMANCE BY:
Theophilus London

DJ Sets from:
Team Bayside
Hollywood Holt

River East Arts Center
435 East Illinois Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Time: 8pm – 11pm

rsvp: chicago@remix-lab.com

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Watch This: Sound Opinions Screens The Last Waltz

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Continuing our exploration of classic and contemporary rock documentaries, here’s a great chance to hangout with our friends over at Sound Opinions for a 35th anninversary celebration screening of the Last Waltz at the Music Box in Chicago.

Join Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot on Wednesday November 30 at 7 p.m. at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago for what many believe to be the greatest concert film ever made. Proceeds to go benefit Sound Opinions and Chicago Public Media.

Screening info:

The Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave in Chicago.
Tickets are available here.

What Rock Doc Would You Screen?

If you had a movie theater all to yourself, what rock doc would you screen? What do you think is the most influential or best rock doc ever? Let us know what films are on your list and we’ll share your feedback and story during a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Good News for New Yorkers: Fucked Up to Play ‘David’ In Full, In the Round

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fucked up david comes to life

There’s a short list of releases that have captivated me thus far in 2011. And one of them is the inspiring 78-minute rock opera concept album David Comes to Life by Canadian hardcore punk band Fucked Up.

I first saw the band live at Pitchfork 2009 and since then I’ve been following their adventures over the last few years.

And the fist time I dove into David earlier this year, I was blown away on many levels. And I knew I had to see these guys perform live again, especially the songs from this album.

If the band’s name hasn’t already warned you, I’ll give you a double warning and say that Fucked Up isn’t a band that everyone will warm up to. For example, lead singer Damian Abraham gritty growl of a singing voice is harsh and I imaging most folks won’t be hip to it initially.

But it only takes a close listen to discover the beauty within the beast and realize that Abraham is a gifted lyricist who loves to use his seething and urgent growl to sing from the depth of his heart. And in this case, he expands his raw talent to tell David‘s story.

I won’t go into all the details, but I will tell you this.

I usually don’t like to read album reviews before I listen to the album so when I first listened to David Comes to Life, I wasn’t initially aware that it was a rock opera that, according to Pitchfork “tells the story of a lowly British light bulb factory worker put on trial for the accidental (or is it?) death of his activist girlfriend.”

What I did do, before I discovered the full massiveness of the back story, was get rocked and electrified to my core by the furiously rushing and rhythmic mix of punk and shoe-gazing guitars that paint the epic and ambitious sonic canvas of David.

I didn’t notice this at first but after several trips through the album, it’s absolutely mesmerizing to experience how the collective surging mass of all the instruments not only pushes the album’s story along, but the production also plays the part of the antagonist as it tries to swallow, carrying away or crush the vocals and voice of the lead character David.

But Abraham, as the album’s protagonist, howls and growls triumphantly himself throughout, while also being gorgeously complimented by the soft and sweet croon of female vocals which play the part of David’s girlfriend. This musical and highly emotive tug-of-war combination between the vocals and the layerous and lush production plays beautifully into the heart of the album. And all of this makes it really hard to believe that this is a hardcore punk album. But that it is. And it’s a VERY GOOD one.

So What’s Going On In New York?

Fucked Up came through Chicago in late September but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the show. But I did have the pleasure of living vicariously through a review of the concert via On Warmer Music.

All this said, I’m stoked to share news for New York-area folks that Matador has announced that Fucked Up will play David Comes to Life in its entirety, in the round on November 14th at Le Poisson Rouge.

Matador also notes that this is the first time all 18 songs are played during one show, and the first time many of the songs have been played live at all. Titus Andronicus will also be on the bill so it’s bound to be a great show. Tickets are available here.

Buy David Comes to Life via iTunes.

How Have You Come To Life?

Were you at the Chicago show to witness Fucked Up at the Logan Square Auditorium or at Pitchfork 2008? Got thoughts about experiencing David live in concert? Let us know what you think and we’ll share your story and comments during a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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Concert Preview: The Mesmerizing Polymedia Mythology of NewVillager

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Editorial note: Earlier this week our friend and Live Fix contributor Moira McCormick caught up with NewVillager before their gig in New York to talk about the story behind the band’s ambitiously esoteric and wonder-filled mythological live show — and what awaits Chicago fans tonight at the Empty Bottle

 

“What makes it exciting,” says Ross Simonini of his deliriously uncategorizable polymedia band NewVillager, “is that it’s pop music and esoteric ideas traveling together. Pop can hold esoteric ideas, and we like both – why can’t they be married?”

Simonini and musical partner/fellow visual and conceptual artist Ben Bromley, whose self-titled debut album arrived last month on the IAMSOUND label, are shortly appearing at downtown Manhattan’s snug, multicolored performance space Santos Party House, not quite a month into their North American tour – which brings them to the Empty Bottle tonight.

The Brooklyn-by-way-of-San Francisco duo, augmented live by drummer Collin Palmer and human sculpture Eric Lister, melds art (the visual and performance kind) with their rapturous pop-soul music, on scintillating display in the 10 tracks of NewVillager – easily one of the most jolt-you-out-of-your-complacency releases of this or any year.

Their press kit boasts as many features published in art publications as in music mags, and their performances are apt to take place in galleries – many of which involve actual art installations, such as the recently concluded “Temporary Culture” at Los Angeles’ Human Resources Gallery.

The 10-day exhibit centered on the band’s construction of a “shantytown” in which NewVillager lived, eating and sleeping and all; they ultimately performed in ten different constructed rooms, each room symbolizing a song from the 10-track album. The number ten figures prominently in NewVillager’s self-created mythology, a complex entity that, like Hindu, Greek, or any other cultural mythos, “can’t be summarized in two sentences,” as Simonini puts it: “Our mythology is not really a narrative. NewVillager’s mythology should be understood like art” – in that intuitive, gut-level, gestalt way that art is digested.

At the same time, Simonini acknowledges that serious art talk in the music world is often regarded as pretentious. And he notes with a laugh, “When people hear our ideas first, before our music, they think we must be a noise band, very abstract.”

Instead, NewVillager sculpts widescreen, kaleidoscopic, soul-infused pop – and if you listen to their album without knowing anything about them first, you’d swear you’re hearing a multi-vocalist, multi-instrument, multiracial ensemble. ‘We tried to make the album sound that way,” Simonini says modestly.

When you find out NewVillager is just two guys – two white guys – you’re impressed, if not incredulous. And you figure they must hire a phalanx of singers and musicians to recreate that sound in concert – or at least incorporate a whole lotta recorded tracks.

“No tracks,” says Simonini.

He does add that they’d like to tour with a populous ensemble some day, but that “financially and logistically” it’s not possible. Hiring drummer Palmer, however, made a significant difference in NewVillager’s live sound – and appearance.

“It used to be unruly,” says Simonini, “with just me and a guitar and a foot pedal, and Ben and keyboards and bass and a foot pedal.”

As for the aforementioned human sculpture, that would be one Eric Lister, a friend of Simonini’s since his San Francisco childhood, who’s previously taken part in NewVillager’s art-music happenings. In their current show, Simonini describes, “Eric’s in the center [of the audience], in his ‘Cocoon House’ state” – “Cocoon House” being the leadoff track on NewVillager, whose physical imagery is meant to suggest the gestational phase of an idea.

In fact, as NewVillager’s set begins in the Day-Glo-daubed, patchouli-scented, and cheerfully diminutive music room of Santos Party House, Lister has encased himself in a womblike fabric contraption – “a quilt made of our childhood clothing,” according to Simonini.

When the human sculpture emerges later in NewVillager’s set, those concertgoers who are in the know, but who aren’t in the cocoon’s immediate area, can only imagine the give-and-take that’s surely taking place. Before the show, Simonini said that the addition of Eric the human sculpture gave audience members a chance to interact with “the art aspects of the show;” though the interaction isn’t visible to whole swathes of people.

But if some of NewVillager’s visual-art components worked better in theory than in concert – at least in a bite-sized venue like this – the band pulled off something even more rewarding: just these two guys (plus drummer) recreated every delicious texture and nuance of their sheerly edible album. Simonini and Bromley’s vocals particularly amazed, especially the latter’s supple swoops from baritone rumble to soul-sweet falsetto, as in the stop-start strut of “Rich Doors” – and their harmonies struck a rich and satisfying vein, time and time again.

The end came too soon, literally; New Villager were a few songs short of performing their whole album, ending with an encore rendition of the exhortatory “Lighthouse” – with a genius snippet of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” tossed in.

“We’re always trying new stuff out,” Simonini had said before the show, referring in particular to their live set, and for NewVillager, that includes delving deeper into ways of bringing their audience into the experience.

He noted that concertgoers have lately been showing up at their gigs dressed as characters from NewVillager’s wildly artful videos (viewable at newvillager.com.) At their Philadelphia gig earlier this month, Simonini says they asked the costumed fans to interact with Eric – which they did, leading the human sculpture out of his cocoon.

This got Simonini and Bromley thinking that the myth-clad devotees might be willing to arrange with the band, in advance of a particular concert, to wear certain costumes and perform certain actions in the audience, perhaps cued by verbal or visual signals from the band – so that a continuous action would flow around the room. And all of this would be coordinated by a website Simonini envisions them setting up.
After all, he says, why go to a pop concert – indeed, why listen to pop music at all – “and not want to go deeper?”

Were You There?

Were you at the NewVillager show in NYC? Have you experienced the wonder and pleasure of their live show before? Let us know what you think and we’ll share your story during a future episode of Live Fix Radio.

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