Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Marky Ramone, Pasta Sauce King? Who knew?

I'm interrupting my usually (ir)regularly scheduled blogging to bring you this little news item, which I just discovered in my emails. Sorry I didn't get this out to my L.A.-based friends before the Big Event.
(I'm only about half as sarcastic as I sound. I think it's cool that Marky's a foodie. Oh, and note the typo in the dateline.)

HOLYWOOD, CA (July 5, 2011) - Whole Foods Market is excited to host Marky Ramone, drummer for the Ramones, for an in-store tasting event of his new, award-winning pasta sauce, and live musical appearance. His pasta sauce is exclusively available at the Whole Foods Market West Hollywood and Fairfax locations. Marky will be signing jars of his pasta sauce and some souvenir drum sticks. Ten percent of net proceeds from the sale of the pasta sauce from these events will benefit Autism Speaks. At the West Hollywood store, there will also be a BBQ with all proceeds benefitting Autism Speaks, who will be here to share what awesome things they do. We will also have several fun vendors here to make this a family affair. Of course…there will be free tasting of this most delicious sauce at both locations!

Marky Ramone, a legend in the punk-rock scene, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (2002), and just this year, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy’s for his musical achievements.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Back into Battle - Mid-Atlantic Band Battle V

Jammin’ Java, the local, little music venue that’s so comfy and friendly I consider it a second home, hosted its Fifth Mid-Atlantic Region Band Battle over the past four days. The club gang was nice enough to ask me to judge, as I have for the past three battles, so I was there last night (would have done more, but I was out of town) and it was, as always, a great night for sampling the local scene.

Host/”hottie” Nate Ihara, leader of his own fine local band, We Were Kings, was the MC. While pimping my credits, Nate made me promise to post some photos on the web site by tonight. So, here we go….

For those of you who like to read the last few pages of a book before you commit, we’ll start with a photo of the night’s top musical act, Bethany and the Guitar, who ended the evening with a lovely set of girl-pop tunes marked by three-part harmony and bright, singalong melodies.

Bethany and the Guitar’s win did not come easily. I don’t judge and tell, but there was at least one other band that I thought had a chance of winning the night. (BTW, each judge keeps a separate scoring sheet, based on a set of attributes like musicianship, songwriting, crowd response and such. We don’t compare them, so I have no idea of how close the final results were.) Here’s how the deal went down…

It’s never easy to be the first band at one of these contests; the club had only a few patrons early enough to hear the first of the six-band bill, an outfit called Kill Lincoln. But the guys blasted into their first number, two horn players setting a Mighty Mighty Bosstoness tone, and tore through their set to launch the show.

  Next up was Fourth Quarter Comeback (good name), who mined the emo/punk vein, with lots of support from a vocal crowd of fans.
As Wings of Apollo set up for their 15-minutes, we knew we were in for something intense – the power trio were stripped to the waist and buff. Their set was loud and strong, tapping into the spirit of Led Zeppelin's hard rock blues. 
 A trio of a whole ‘nother type – two rappers and a DJ on an Apple laptop – appeared next. Nightclub Fight Club impressed as much for the smooth dance moves of one of its vocalists as for the fat, fun beats and Beastie Boys-like smartass lyrics.
 The penultimate (love that word) band of the night was Feed God Cabbage. The silly name and the casual attire made me think the sound would be jam band noodling, but the singer/drummer had a great voice and the playing was tight, with an appealing reggae rhythm beneath. One of the compliments I can pay them is that I planned to visit the merch table after the show and pick up a CD, but they were packed up and gone by the time I was heading out.
With five bands down - all of them male rock outfits with hard-driving tempos, the set-up for Bethany and The Guitar  - a mixed-gender quintet with acoustic guitars and a drum box (just discovered, via Google, that it’s called a “cajon”) – could have indicated a dip in the energy level, but the group forged on with solid professionalism and radio-ready songs in the upbeat, crowd-pleasing style of Ingrid Michaelson or Sara Bareilles. A second female vocalist and guitar/vocal support from Bethany’s brother, Kurtis Parks (he has his own band, and made it onto the preliminary roster of “American Idol,” season four) gave the material an added lift.
With so much talent and such diverse musical styles on display, there are usually some grumbles when the winner is announced since everyone's got their own taste and preferences. Judging is fun but not easy. Every band who appeared at the Battle has something going for them. In fact, the same night this competition took place at J2, a multi-act bill was taking place at the much larger 9:30 Club, and some of those bands are veterans of previous Band Battles who did not take home the big prize. So, no losers here.
Meanwhile, along with the winners of the three previous Battle nights, Bethany and the Guitar will move on to the finals, to be held in August. Maybe I'll be judging again. If so, see you there...
Hey Nate, I met the deadline you gave me. Where's my White Russian?