Civil War Rust- Help Wanted

California’s Civil War Rust is back with their sophomore LP release, “Help Wanted”, and it’s sure to be a hit among fans of punk rock who are looking for all of the energy, but with a little bit of heart.

Clocking in at 24 minutes, “Help Wanted” is efficient but not rushed; the track listing is crafted carefully and plays in a way that the listener doesn’t feel slighted by the run time- left wanting more because the album is fantastic, but satisfied because of the quality of the music.  There’s definitely truth to the phrase less is more, and “Help Wanted” is proof.

Though the lyrics are often heavy, addressing love, loss and addiction, Civil War Rust presents these topics with upbeat accompaniment and enough optimism that you’ll find yourself moving to the beat and singing along; songs like “Upside Down” and “Rogues Couch” are immediately attention-grabbing and seem ready made for audience participation, while “Photographs” slows the pace momentarily.  Lead vocals are a shared affair between members, which not only allows each of the band’s members to shine, but also helps to enhance certain songs or lyrics with an ear-catching tonal switch.

Fans of Alkaline Trio, The Loved Ones, Two Cow Garage and even the more mature, post-Skiba Blink-182 will likely find themselves at home with this album.  It offers up a punk rock aesthetic with no holds barred- everything is laid out on the table with truth, honesty and no apologies.

From l-r: Misty Clear, Egg Splatter, and Ox Blood Splatter

From l-r: Misty Clear, Egg-Coloured, and Ox Blood Splatter variants

Originally released in November 2015, Civil War Rust, in conjunction with Say-10 Records is celebrating a re-release of “Help Wanted” on vinyl, and it is available for pre-order now!  Visit http://www.say-10.com/store/cwrhelpwanted/  where you’ll find several unique variants to choose from.  These are already moving fast so don’t waste any time if you’ve got your eye on a certain colour- quantities are limited.  Don’t miss out!

 

Canada Says Goodbye to The Tragically Hip

Last night saw a country united; 30 million people, from all walks of life, and all areas of Canada attended, streamed and watched as Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip put on what very well may be the final show they ever perform.  It was at once a joyful celebration and a somber reminder that life can be cruelly and unexpectedly cut short.

As someone who is at best a casual fan, I don’t know what I expected out of this show, but I can admit that any pretenses I had were quickly out the window as soon as the Hip started to play.  Watching Gord and the band was nothing short of magic.  The setlist was clearly a labour of love in and of itself, crafted not only to combine songs that were obvious crowd favourites, but also songs that appeared to have sentiment to the band as well.  The entire affair was played with more energy than I could have expected;  if Gord is going out, he’s clearly going to do it on his terms.  Only on limited occasions did he succumb to his emotions, and it was in those brief moments that you were forced to remember why this show in particular was being broadcast across the country and streamed all over the world.

Playing for nearly three hours, Gord used this platform as a means of addressing socio-political issues in Canada, taking time to praise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who was in attendance), stating “”He’s going to take us where we need to go. And we’ve gotta be a country that’s going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there. But it isn’t cool and everybody knows that. It’s really, really bad. We’re gonna figure it out.”  He quickly corrected himself: “You’re going to figure it out”, which brought a melancholy reminder again that he is aware that he may not be with us to see these issues get resolved.  The moment was fleeting as they quickly launched into another song, but it was the first time for me that the reality of what we were viewing last night really sunk in.

This show was not only a celebration of a career that spanned decades, but also a thank you to fans who have followed the Hip during that time.  Multiple times, Gord thanked the audience for “keeping me pushing”, and gave a particular mention to the female fans, stating that at one point it seemed like a ‘boy’s club’ and he was grateful that the women made their way back to the fan base, though he couldn’t say why or how that came to be.  This was met with loud applause and cheering through the arena in Kingston.

Ending their third and final encore was “Ahead by a Century”, one of their biggest singles from 1996’s “Trouble at the Henhouse”, and it felt like the best way to say goodbye to a band that has remained one of the most influential bands in our country.  They never got the international acclaim that I think people wanted or expected, but last night, it felt like that was ok.  This was Canada’s band, and it felt even more special to be able to embrace that as a nation.

 

 

 

 

Show Recap: Flogging Molly @ Jacob’s Pavilion, Cleveland OH- August 14, 2016

When Chuck Ragan became a late addition to this tour line up, Caleigh said to me, “I don’t think we can do just one show”.  She was right.  We enjoyed the Freedom Hill show SO much, and I’m so glad we decided to make the jaunt to Cleveland the next day.

However, I will add that in our journey, we were fighting exhaustion, so we exited in Toledo to get gas and find a Starbucks.  What we learned:  never stop in Toledo.  Getting gas was the easiest part- when searching for a nearby Starbucks, GPS brought us to an empty field.  After a tour of some of the sketchier areas of Toledo, we finally found a McDonalds (in a basically abandoned plaza) and decided to get coffee there.  Apparently my request for two milk/two sugar in my coffee was too outlandish for them to handle, because the girl at the drive-thru tried to hand me a tray containing Caleigh’s frappe, a coffee, two children’s bottles of milk, and a Happy Meal?  Being as tired as we were, I didn’t even consider that I had probably paid for the milk, and that it wasn’t going to be in my coffee- thankfully I don’t mind a black coffee every now and again!  It took us longer than I’d like to admit to get back onto the highway, mainly because every exit onto the highway was under construction.  Toledo is the Bermuda Triangle of Ohio, and we quickly became convinced that anyone who lives there was probably a tourist who ended up there and couldn’t get back out.

The rest of the journey was a smooth one, and we ended up getting to the waterfront by about 2 or 2:30pm- perfect timing for a marathon line up session.  We weren’t even the first ones there this time, and we had a tent as shelter for the impending rain, so all things considered, we were in great shape.  Shortly after, we saw Chuck Ragan out speaking to a security guard, and as he glanced over to us, he waved and started to walk over.  He took a moment to introduce himself, shake hands with the group of us in line and chat for a bit before heading back to the stage;  further proving that the fabled stories of Chuck Ragan being one of the nicest men in music are indeed true. (Need further proof?  Read about how he gave Dan Ozzi, a writer at VICE, the shoes off his feet here )

As it came closer to the time that doors were scheduled to open, another line began to form at a separate gate- there were to be two gates open at the same time.  For those of us who had patiently waited in line for hours, it was frustrating to think that we could be denied prime barrier position.  It was further compounded by the security on our side attempting to open a second line on our side, and bringing up people from the middle to back of the line to be at the front of this new line.  Our new friends protested this development, and thankfully, we had a security guard on our side who agreed to scan our tickets and bag check the six of us first so that we could get a slight head start.  We really had nothing to worry about, but there’s always that bit of anxiety when doors open and you prepare to sprint to your position.  Either way, we were still front row and center.

Chuck opened this time with “Nothing Left to Prove” and “Meet You In the Middle”, and we made sure we contributed with Brian Fallon’s part in the latter, earning a smile and acknowledgement from Chuck.  I was surprised with the number of people who were unfamiliar with his music, as his career as not only a solo artist but lead singer of Hot Water Music has been extensive, but judging from comments I heard later, it sounds like there will be a lot more Chuck Ragan fans out there thanks to this tour.  Once again, he and Todd Beene (pedal steele, back up vocals) were flawless, and my only complaint is that his set wasn’t longer.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls were up next, and this set was even more fun since we were beside a few people who were long time fans seeing him for the first time.  It’s really nice to meet fans and experience that excitement with them, no matter who is performing, but there’s always something special about a Frank Turner show.  Although the previous night’s crowd in Michigan had been deemed a 5/10 by Frank (rated based on how loud the crowd was when asked if we were having fun), the Cleveland crowd surprised the band with their enthusiasm– we got promoted to a 6!  The Cleveland crowd took a little while to get rowdy but at Frank’s direction, they began a circle pit towards the center of the crowd and the energy never wavered.

We decided to move again after Frank’s set, and took a run by merch to pick up some last minute Chuck Ragan items.  This also gave us the opportunity to visit with Chuck and Todd, who were meeting fans during the break between Frank and Flogging Molly.  Once again, I can’t stress how wonderfully sweet these men are.  We were immediately greeted with hugs and thanked for participating in the set by singing and dancing.  They were humble, gracious and took time to speak with anyone who requested their time, as well as autograph merchandise and take photos.

With that, we were off to join the rest of the crowd for Flogging Molly’s set, which we viewed from a little farther back as per the previous show.  We felt again that it was only fair to give our spots at the barrier to people who were there specifically to see Flogging Molly, and were happy to have a little extra room to dance anyways.  Flogging Molly really are one of the tightest bands I’ve seen, and they are definitely there having as good a time as anyone in the crowd.  Playing  similar set to the previous night, we danced to “Requiem for a Dying Song” and “Saints and Sinners”, and slowed it down to a sway for “Float” and “If I Ever Leave this World Alive”.  Dave King is really a master entertainer, and I’m so appreciative that we were able to do two shows on this tour.

(Sorry for lack of quality/lack of photos in general- I truly did live in the moment this tour and my camera was put away for a majority of the show)

 

 

Show Recap: Flogging Molly @ Freedom Hill, Sterling Heights MI- August 13, 2016

Saturday saw us actually attend two shows:  first, we made it to Farmington Community Library to see Frank Turner perform an acoustic 7-song set followed by a meet and greet and signing of his book, “The Road Beneath My Feet”.  Limited to 150 attendees, you could have heard a pin drop as soon as Frank started singing something that is extremely uncommon for a Frank Turner show!

Frank played acoustic versions of Wisdom Teeth, Journey of the Magi, Rivers, Love Forty Down, To Take You Home, Good and Gone, a new song that will be featured on an upcoming album, and shared a few stories and anecdotes in between.  As we wanted to get in line early for the evening’s event at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, we ended up leaving after he was done playing and therefore didn’t stick around for the meet and greet.  We’re extremely fortunate that he remains as accessible as he is, and figured that we would be likely to meet up with him at the show anyways.

We arrived to the next venue as the clouds were rolling in and the sky was getting darker.  It was inevitable that it was going to rain and we were without shelter, save for my very cheap, very ineffective umbrella.  Frank’s song, “The Next Storm” became very relevant: “And we wondered if we’d ever get dry again…”  Between the rain, and extreme heat and humidity, the answer was a resounding ‘no’.

Finally, it was time to start the show, and our patience was rewarded with a front row and center position at the barrier.  Although we had originally purchased tickets with the intention of seeing Frank Turner again, Chuck Ragan had been added to the bill after the tour was originally announced, and we were equally excited to see him too.  This was the first opportunity we’ve had to see him and we were definitely not disappointed:  Chuck, accompanied by Todd Beene on back up vocals and pedal steel, were incredible.  Their set list was short, but packed with songs spanning across most of his albums:  Meet You in the Middle and Nothing Left to Prove from Covering Ground, The Boat from Feast or Famine, Bedroll Lullaby and Vagabond from Till Midnight, and Rotterdam from Gold Country.  As we had expected Chuck simply playing solo, the additional back up from Todd was beautiful and really helped to round out the sound.  It was an amazing beginning to the night.

There was a short break while the crew set things back up for Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, but soon we heard the familiar sound of the Jurassic Park theme, signalling their entrance to the stage.  Opening with “I Still Believe”, Frank and the Souls kept the energy high and the crowd moving with “The Next Storm”, “Recovery” and fan favourite “Long Live the Queen”.  However, in a very special accommodation for yours truly, Frank slowed things down and played “Cleopatra in Brooklyn” solo and acoustically about half way through the set per a request that I had sent him a few days prior.  It’s one of my absolute favourite songs, so this was undeniably my favourite part of his set.  He was joined once again by the Sleeping Souls for the rest of the set, which included “The Way I Tend to Be”, “Photosynthesis”, and “Four Simple Words” saw him close out the show by crowd-surfing over us and dancing with the girl beside me- it was her first time even hearing of Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner, but in talking with her afterwards, she admitted she was looking forward to going home and looking up more of their music as she was quickly becoming a fan!

Because we had been able to be at the front for the bands we were most interested in seeing, we opted to move towards the back for Flogging Molly, and let their fans take our position on the barrier.  I’ve actually seen Flogging Molly twice before, and although I enjoy them, we wanted their fans to have the option to be closer to the action.  It was actually nice to move into a more open part of the pit anyways, as we had a bit more breathing and dancing room!  Flogging Molly are definitely a band who gets their crowd moving, and very rarely do you even have a moment to sit still.  They opened with “The Hand of John L. Sullivan” and didn’t let up through “Drunken Lullabies”, “Requiem for a Dying Song” and “What’s Left of the Flag”.  “Float”, one of my favourite songs by them, sounded even more impressive live.  The show closed to all of the bands and crew joining Flogging Molly on stage for a song and dance to Rodney Dangerfield’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, and having left everything we had at the show, we left, exhausted and happy.

 

 

Wrapping Up….July!

It’s hard to believe that we’re heading into August already, isn’t it?!

July was a weird one for me; it was filled with a lot of ups and a lot of downs, and I think this month’s music is all over the place- maybe more so than usual because of the head space I was in at the time.

I’m not overly sad to see July go to be honest, and I’m happy that we’re starting fresh, beginning today!  Enjoy my picks for July, and here’s to a fun, happy and safe August!