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Early Edition: Hit the Lights
12/11/11 at 01:51 AM by Thomas Nassiff
This is going to be an unpopular opinion.

I don't understand why pop-punk kids put up with this band anymore. Skip School, Start Fights was streaky on a good day....on a bad day, it was good awful. Invicta is probably three times worse. It's a bad record. That's all I can say about it - it's bad. I can't make it through my fourth listen; I would rather listen to my entire top 50 in 2011 than this, the first big release of 2012. In fact, there are quite a few things I'd rather do than give Invicta another listen. I'd rather listen to the new Four Year Strong record a dozen times. I'd rather try to like Every Avenue again.

Hit the Lights isn't a bad band, I'm just not sure they remember how to make a good record. The vocals are the main issue, but they aren't the only bad part. What is going on with the guitars here? Nothing is crunchy. Nothing is edgy. It's all fucking BORING. Not only is it all typical, but it's all Albert Pujols expecting your next fastball. Invicta is simply boring.

Actually, no. I can't dismiss it as just boring. Have you ever eaten a Cinnabon??? Is there ever a reason to eat a Cinnabon? Let's see...I'm at the airport....I'm about to embark on a five-hour flight to Los Angeles....how about a pound of cinnamon-flavored cake? NO. How about, I'm at the mall...just bought a new Ed Hardy t-shirt...how about 1,000 grams of sugar? NO. (everyone listen to Jim Gaffigan's standup about food, where those jokes were lifted from.)

I'd rather eat 12 Cinnabons and face those consequences than give another listen to Invicta. It isn't a guilty pleasure. It's just a bad. record. It's bad. There are 0 (0.000) songs that I will come back to. This is how I know it's bad - on Skip School, Stars Fights, I played tracks 2, 3, 4, and 6 on repeat at some point. I don't know the names of those tracks - I just remember having a physical CD of that album in my car and playing those OVER AND OVER again. Not only are tracks 2, 3, 4, and 6 from SS, SF better than ALL of Invicta put together, but it's not even close. Did this band change guitarists and drummer? Did all of these band members turn back the clock to 2005 and try to write a record for the middle school version of me?

I encourage you to listen to Invicta. I encourage you to BUY Invicta, because I know that Hit the Lights are good guys and they deserve to keep playing music because they're good guys. But I want you to make your own opinion of Invicta, too. I'm sure plenty of people will like this album; I just won't understand why. It's too sugary. It's too tuned. It's too perfect-sounding. I like the punk side of pop-punk....and not only is there no punk here, there's barely even any pop-rock. It's just boring pop songs on repeat for 37:38, and there aren't any lyrics that make me want to return to the bad music. Invicta won't get any more plays from me. It hasn't been imported into my iTunes yet, and it won't ever be. I'll file the CD away in a bookcase. I want everyone to buy this album, listen to it and form their opinion because I'm interested in the compare and contrast - I just think this is the worst album Hit the Lights could have possibly written. Saying that I was anticipating this release is now embarrassing to me. I don't just long for the This Is A Stickup... days, I straight-up think this band should have changed their name before writing either of the albums that came after.
Tags: hit the lights, invicta, early edition
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Fest 10, Day 2
10/30/11 at 10:45 AM by Thomas Nassiff
Fest 10, Day 2

As expected, day 2 of Fest 10 turned out to be the highlight. I’m not sure what will go down today, but it’ll be tough to beat the mania of yesterday. I also executed what I think is a wily and clever plan by tweeting during each set I watched, in case I couldn’t remember parts of the day, so that I would be able to recall them and write about them. This was a genius move on my part.

The day begun with The Menzingers playing acoustic guitars and me drinking Bloody Marys at 1 pm at Loosey’s. They started early and the small venue was way over capacity for them, but boy, is that band good. They also played a second set, later in the day at The Atlantic, which I was not able to attend but I’m sure they killed it.

After Menzingers, I had to go to the Paper + Plastick warehouse for a couple of hours to handle some label manager business. We have a lot of bands in town this weekend, so Red City Radio came through to pick up their new split 7” with The Gamits, Reverse the Curse came to pick up vinyl copies of their new LP, Hither & Yon, and Junior Battles came to pick up a Fest-exclusive color of their new full-length, Idle Ages. Watching Junior Battles’ reaction as they saw the gatefold jacket for the first time was awesome. Truly why I love my job so much – they were really grateful and it was like they were still in shock that someone invested any time or money into helping them put out a record. Idle Ages is one of my favorite pop-punk records of the year, so be sure to check that out.

I biked over to Reverse the Curse’s set at The Atlantic next, and with no color added: They are one of the best rock bands you have not heard. Head here (http://store.paperandplastick.com/products/13600) and you can download one of their better songs for free. I promise you, you’ll want to hear more. I proceeded to go watch some more Paper + Plastick family with Make Do and Mend at the Florida Theater of Gainesville. Besides the fact that some asshole was doing the lighting and it was pitch black on stage, MDAM killed it. That band gets better every time I see them – they were more tight and more powerful than ever before and the transition in between “Shambles” and “Winter Wonderland” was something to remember.

I took a Fest break to sit by myself, eat a hamburger and watch the Gators play Georgia. We lost, that sucks, but I always feel like it’s important to be alone at some point during a day of Fest to keep your sanity. As a result of MDAM running over time, though, I missed one of the bands I really wanted to catch – Sainthood Reps. Oh well, there will be another time.

I trekked over to Double Down to watch A Wilhelm Scream play Mute Print in its entirety. Although I like the band, I wasn’t familiar enough to sing along – but that was one of those once-in-a-lifetime, Fest-only things that happens, so I’m stoked I was able to witness it. I took another break and went to my apartment to take a shower – one of the major pros of living in Gainesville during the Fest. My next venture was to Junior Battles’ acoustic set at the CMC, and this is when the fun really started.

PJ Bond played a few impromptu songs, then Junior Battles played but mostly the crowd sang, as Sam Sutherland’s voice was already shot. They closed with a cover of Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” and as the do-do-do’s rang in, it was impossible to see a single person who wasn’t smiling. That community is what this weekend is all about. I made the mistake of driving to the CMC from my house (it’s a long walk), but that meant driving my car back home, and the resulting walk back to downtown made me miss most of Heartsounds. I did, however, get yelled at about an afterparty by Buddy Schaub while he passed by on a bike, so that was worth it.

I ate some delicious Cuban food at Flaco’s, then went to watch Lemuria. That band…I’m sorry, but that band bores me live. I checked out about five songs before dipping to go catch A Great Big Pile of Leaves down the street. AGBPOL simply kills it, and I’ve only seen them twice now, but I’m assuming it’s an everyday thing for them. Their guitarist is insane live and their tones just transition so well into that setting. Even though I was only able to watch for 15 minutes, it’ll be one of the most memorable parts of Fest for me.

Leaving that for Red City Radio proved to be a good idea, though, as RCR put on what was by far my favorite set of Fest 10 so far. It was rowdy to begin with, and that band has some great, powerful songs, but things only got better when they called one of their friends onto the stage. This guy brought his girlfriend on stage and proposed to her, and she said yes, and then Red City Radio played another song with everyone in the crowd just being happy. They played a cover of the 5-second Descendents song, “All,” after taking about 3 minutes to get guest vocalists in place. It was hilarious. By the end of the set, the entire crowd was on the stage and I couldn’t see the band at all. Talk about a set that exemplified the Fest.

Today is getting off to a slow start. Have to take care of some P+P things, then I’ll be starting my show-watching at 4 pm with Cheap Girls. Meow!
Tags: fest 10, red city radio, a great big pile of leaves, the menzingers, junior battles
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Fest 10 - Day 1 Recap
10/29/11 at 07:47 AM by Thomas Nassiff
So basically this is just my personal recap of what I did on Fest 10, Day 1. It's not a review or anything - that's not what this weekend is about, really. This is just what I did on a (tired and hungover) Day 1.

Fest 10, Day 1

The beginning of The Fest is probably unlike anything most people will experience in their whole life. The not-so-big town of Gainesville begins getting filled to its brim with people of all different kinds, from all over the world. What’s the common ground? Well, you could say tattoo sleeves, PBR koozies and Descendents t-shirts, but in a more broad sense I guess it’s punk rock. Fest registration is one of the most peaceful, positive and cheerful events of the year, anywhere.

Friends meet up with old friends that they haven’t seen since last Fest. People meet up with people they met a few Fests ago that they haven’t talked to since then. And yesterday, an insanely long line wrapped up from the Holiday Inn’s conference room (aka Fest HQ), down the hotel’s stairs, through the parking lot, out onto the sidewalk, down a block and a half, made a left and went a few blocks down that street. And no one cared. At one point, I met people who had been in line for four hours. They were smiling, drinking and talking to new friends from out of the country. In a statistic that made 60 percent of Fest-goers chuckle to themselves, exactly 666 people from outside of the United States bought a weekend pass.

My first day of Fest was pretty heavily dependent on Paper + Plastick related work for the first few hours. We set up a table in the Holiday Inn conference room, selling records and toys to Festers as they passed us in line or walked around the Fest Flea Market. It was a grand time, and it was awesome to meet kids from all over the world who would walk up to the table and thank us for what we do, telling me they own a huge part of our discography. We tabled from noon till about 6, before bands were starting to play. I took my time and missed Small Brown Bike, but went to see Tigers Jaw for my first Fest set of the weekend.

The Scranton, Penn., natives were way more tight on stage for Fest 10 than they were the only other time I’ve seen them – a few months ago at Pembroke Pines’ Talent Farm. They were loud, they were compact, and they got kids excited for the weekend, especially on “Spirit Desire” and “I Saw Water.” I walked next door to check out the last 15 minutes of Samiam’s set, but the Florida Theater of Gainesville (better known by its previous name as The Venue) was more packed than I’ve ever seen it before. The heat in that enormous place was almost unbearable, and I made the regrettable decision to forego the rest of the sets there for the night. This meant I missed Kid Dynamite, Bouncing Souls and Hot Water Music – three of the most anticipated bands, but I was already too tired and dehydrated to deal with that crowd.

After eating a gyro and getting sick, I decided I had to take it easy for the night. The day before Fest 10 was my 21st birthday, so a lot of inactivity on Fest Day 1 had a lot to do with too much activity the day before. Not complaining, though. I did manage to find my way to 1982 Bar for Algernon Cadwallader’s “mystery set,” which was an absolutely mind-blowing performance. The band, playing to a much smaller crowd than usual (which is the point of the mystery sets), put on an incredible set filled with crowd surfing in the way-too-small bar. Algernon is truly one of those bands that sounds good on the record, but infinitely better in a live setting. I relaxed and recuperated following that set, choosing to miss some action on Friday in the hope that I’d feel better enough to go full-Fest on Saturday and Sunday. Spoiler alert: This was a good decision and I feel fully rested this morning.

However, I did manage to sneak my way over to the CMC to watch my friends in Make Do and Mend play an acoustic set. This was appropriate, as their Part and Parcel EP is set to drop soon. They played most of the songs from that EP, including the Touche Amore cover and the new song, a sad story called “Untitled.” It made me even more excited for their set today.

So, now I’m going to take a nap for an hour then get my Fest Day 2 started. I’m looking forward to a full day on a whopping six hours of rest (roughly three more hours than I had yesterday, which is worth noting!) and I’m going to start it off with The Menzingers acoustic set. I know tomorrow's recap will feature three times as many bands as this one did. Cheers to all!
Tags: fest 10, tigers jaw, algernon cadwallader, make do and mend
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Alive and Kicking: The Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour and Why New Found Glory...
10/23/11 at 10:10 PM by Thomas Nassiff
Alive and Kicking: The Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour and Why New Found Glory Refuse to Let This Genre Sink

Story by Thomas Nassiff
Photos by Samantha Gomez

Pop-punk isn’t dead, but boy, is it tired.

At least it is right now, as a couple of representatives from three of the bands on the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour walk across Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, Fla., toward the warm, inviting hue of a Denny’s.

As the crowd heads in and the hostess fixes a table for a dozen, a bunch of usual tour shenanigans are taking place. Dan Campbell, vocalist for Philadelphia’s The Wonder Years, digs into his pockets for 50 cents to play a crane game. Brad Wiseman, guitarist for Walnut Creek, Calif., natives This Time Next Year, aligns himself on the machine’s left side to give Campbell some extra depth perception as he aims for a Halloween-themed penguin.

“A couple of the guys on tour are really good at these crane games,” Campbell said later on. “They win them every time they play. I just want to feel like I’m a part of something.”

Pete Dowdalls and Justin Collier, vocalist for This Time Next Year and guitarist for New Jersey’s Man Overboard, respectively, are wandering around, unable to find a restroom. A waitress points them in the right direction and gives them an odd glance as they walk by. Only Wonder Years bassist Josh Martin keeps an eye on the hostess, looking anxious to sit down and dig into some food. It’s like a sweatier, beardier, more heavily tattooed version of the Brady Bunch waiting to be seated on the one night a week they get to go out for dinner.

“The four support bands have all been on tour with each other a bunch of times,” Martin says. “I’m stoked to have kind of this family out on the tour.”

The Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour may very well be the most hyped tour package of the year. Set Your Goals, The Wonder Years, Man Overboard and This Time Next Year – four pop-punk bands generating an enormous amount of buzz – all opening for New Found Glory, the by-default godfathers of the genre. Today, an off-night date in Jacksonville provided a rare opportunity for the support bands to play a more intimate show. They played to just over 300 sweaty, stage-diving young people at a venue called The Pit – an enormous contrast to the 2,000 that packed the Orlando House of Blues to its brim just three days earlier.

With all five of the bands supporting recently released full-length records, the excitement of each show has been on a level that some have never experienced.

“If you have a tour where you have four or five relevant bands like this, kids are bound to like a majority of the bands,” Dowdalls says. At the Orlando show, Dowdalls revealed to the crowd that it was the largest This Time Next Year had ever played to.

“We get stoked on it,” he continued. “I’ve never seen kids react to us this way in such a loud, crowded environment before.”

Pete Dowdalls, This Time Next Year

While each of the groups have varied amounts of experience playing to bigger audiences, they all have a common mindset – to work hard, stick together and support each other. It’s that DIY, take-nothing-for-granted attitude that this portion of the pop-punk scene has become known for.

An innate willingness to get the job done and a desire for collective success has taken a group of individual bands and turned them into a community of teammates.

“It’s not really something that can be defined as a musical genre so much,” Campbell says about the sense of community on the tour. “It’s more like a group of people with the right idea and I think everyone on this tour has the right idea. I think that’s the most important thing to have in common.”

While the spotlight is being shed on the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour at the moment – for good reason – the entire group is quick to recognize its equally hard working peers in the scene.

Running simultaneous to their tour is the Alternative Press Fall Tour, featuring Four Year Strong, Title Fight, Sharks and The Swellers. Campbell recalls his friends in Polar Bear Club, Fireworks, Balance & Composure and Make Do and Mend recently wrapping up another stacked tour.

“On any tour when you have friends in a positive environment, and the bands playing are all positive, then it becomes a positive environment for the people who come to the show,” Martin says. “And each night it’s like that – the sum is really greater than all of its parts.”

Martin and Campbell reminisce about the summer they spent weaving throughout the country on the Vans Warped Tour, and how bands in other genres were much less willing to help their peers succeed. They talk about bands playing metalcore or other styles of music popular on the tour, referring to some of those camps as “shit-talk city.”

“Some people on the other side of the fence, genre-wise, are real competitive where we are, as a genre, really supportive and we promote one another and want to see each other do well,” Martin says.

“We’re just at an advantage in general,” Collier adds. “We come from punk scenes that are really supportive, whether it be punk or pop-punk or hardcore.”

Wiseman jumps on Collier’s hardcore reference, saying he feels comfortable and at ease on tour knowing he’s driving cross-country with people who will have his back no matter what. He tells the group about This Time Next Year’s first tour ever, where they played to only a couple dozen kids each night. He says some bands in other genres might not be okay with only playing to a handful of kids, but groups in this scene will still get excited about it.

“We played a warehouse in Colorado Springs [on that first tour], and there were like, maybe 30 kids there and 10 of them were going off,” he says. “And we were like, ‘Holy shit, we’re in Colorado playing a show to 30 kids and 10 of them are freaking out.’ Two of them knew the words to every single song. Not everyone, I feel, can have that appreciation. The difference with us is that I think we can all accept that that is awesome.”

Man Overboard

While some of the contingencies at the table don’t draw the parallel to hardcore music quite as much as Collier and Wiseman do, they can all recognize the comparisons.

Campbell says that while The Wonder Years’ music isn’t similar to hardcore at all (“We’re not a hardcore band, we just aren’t.”), he can see the similarities between the ideals of the genres.

“There are metalcore bands that have ‘core’ in the name,” Campbell says, “[and] they have a lot more to do with hardcore I guess, to an extent. But those bands in that scene have never played a show not on a stage. They’ve never played on a floor, they’ve never played a VFW.

“If we all come up together, we can all keep playing together. There are bands that we enjoy being around, there are bands that we enjoy playing with, and we will keep doing these kinds of tours. I would much rather it be this way.”

As plates of fried food begin making their way to the table, the group agrees on another significant common ground – the importance of New Found Glory to not only their own music, but the genre in general. As stories are swapped about listening to New Found Glorys’ self-titled record at ripe, young ages, it becomes clear that without the Coral Springs, Fla., natives, these bands might not exist at all.

Dowdalls, for example, says, “[New Found Glory] and Saves the Day are the only two reasons why I wanted to be in a pop-punk band.” It’s an ultimatum like this that crystallizes New Found Glory’s immense weight on a genre they very much helped build.

“Influentially, when you think about the top three pop-punk bands of all time…it’s Blink-182, New Found Glory and Green Day,” Martin says as the rest of the table murmurs in agreement. “At least in my brain, they’re on that level eternally.”

Some of the bands have been more influenced by New Found Glory than others. Guitarist Chad Gilbert produced This Time Next Year’s most recent full-length, Drop Out Of Life. At the same time, guitarist and songwriter Steve Klein was in the studio producing Man Overboard’s self-titled full-length. Now, as they’re all touring the country together, the younger bands are beginning to see the full brunt of New Found Glory’s role as leaders in the genre.

“[New Found Glory] would talk to us about how they handled their career,” Campbell says, speaking of The Wonder Years’ several dates with New Found Glory in 2010. “They gave us a lot of sound advice that we used over the course of that year.”

“They’re like the older brothers to all of us, but they definitely don’t need to be,” Wiseman adds.

Collier talks at length about Klein’s straight-up attitude in the studio, trying to give Man Overboard advice not only on what direction to go with their music, but career moves they could take and certain things they should avoid.

“They’re in a position where they can help if they want to, and if they don’t, they can just not give a shit and they’re still New Found Glory,” Collier says. “But they do, [they] genuinely care.”

Collier adds that with Klein on the same tour now, he’s helping execute the record he just helped create. It’s a different gear of producing, on many levels.

“It was awesome being in the studio with Man Overboard,” Klein says via a phone interview. The self-titled album was Klein’s first foray into the industry as a producer. “In a way, I feel like a proud father.”

Daniel "Soupy" Campbell, The Wonder Years

While Klein continues extensively about his time in the studio with Man Overboard, he says New Found Glory believes in keeping the genre going via live performances as well. They take bands on tour, he says, who they feel portray the right ideals.

“We tour with bands that have the same mentality as us,” Klein says. “There’s no bullshit. A band who plays their music, they don’t do makeup before their set, they don’t give a shit what they look like, there’s no light show. They just play and how much they’re into their music and the crowd is what makes them stand out. To me, that’s the best part about punk rock, about pop-punk, and the live performances are what we feel makes the genre go.”

If the first few weeks of the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour are any accurate representation, all signs point to Klein’s statements being correct. As far as giving advice to the younger bands on the tour, he says it’s all been a part of the community since it began.

“When we started out, Less Than Jake, Blink-182 and Green Day and bands like that took us on tour and they all helped us out. We’re just trying to pass it down,” he says. “I feel with us, we’ve gone through all the crap you could go through as far as managers, labels, press people, whatever. We talk to the younger bands and try to give them advice on what is a good or bad way to go about things.”

Campbell and the rest of the group at the Denny’s table, which has seen its food become scarfed into oblivion, keep coming back to New Found Glory’s history of helping younger bands every few minutes. Wiseman recalls talking to a member of The Starting Line, who told him how Chad Gilbert helped push his band on Drive-Thru Records over a decade ago. The Starting Line caught a huge break when New Found Glory took them out on tour; a similar result isn’t out of the question for This Time Next Year.

He references another story Gilbert told them about Dashboard Confessional and Further Seems Forever. “He’s always had people’s backs,” Wiseman says about Gilbert. “You don’t find that in a normal, everyday scenario.”

Martin refers to the band as “mentors,” saying that even almost a decade after influencing new bands with their music, New Found Glory has taken it to the next level by helping those bands keep the genre above water.

Pop-punk, for all intents and purposes, is a genre that New Found Glory helped propagate to a great amount. Having been around for over a decade now, the group has outlasted many of its peers who became notable around the same time in the early 2000s. While New Found Glory’s peers might have broken up (and, more recently, reunited), the band has turned its sights on seeing the scene thrive, even as they continue to release their own new music. Radiosurgery, the band’s seventh studio LP, dropped in October.

“New Found Glory is definitely interested in the preservation of the genre,” Campbell sums up.

“A lot of kids nowadays … are like, 'Wow, it’s pop-punk resurgence,'" Klein says. “But for us, pop-punk never went anywhere. There have always been good pop-punk bands in our minds.”

Daniel "Soupy" Campbell and Josh Martin, The Wonder Years

As the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour continues to weave its way through major markets, it will eventually reach its last stop and end its six-week, cross-country run. But after the #PPNDTour Twitter hashtags are long gone, after the Tumblr posts detailing excitement for an upcoming show are shunned to archived status, and after the glowing show reviews from music critics are forgotten, these bands will just pick up their instruments, pack them in a trailer and do it all over again.

While the tour and the genre have an immense light shined on them at the moment, the fact of the matter is that these bands have a certain DNA embedded in them; that DNA tells them to keep fighting, supporting their friends and helping build a community that existed before them and will exist long after them. It’s a day-to-day grind – and while there is plenty of attention being paid to these bands today, if there’s ever a day when no one cares, they’ll probably still do their own thing.

As James Carroll sings on Make Do and Mend’s “Oak Square,” from their most recent full-length, End Measured Mile: “There’s something to be said for a firm lack of common sense, because God knows getting in the van isn’t paying rent.” Fans of the genre will have to hope that Make Do and Mend, The Wonder Years, This Time Next Year, Man Overboard, Fireworks, The Story So Far and so many more of their peers continue on in their path of “a firm lack of common sense.”

That’s the only way the pop-punk scene will stay alive; it’s the only way for the current crop of young bands to evolve, one day stepping up to the plate and offering their own advice to newcomers.

The one thing that is an agreed-upon conclusion as the group exits Denny’s is that the fight is a collective one. What’s good for one is good for all. The barriers that one band breaks, says Martin, can open up doors for others.

Campbell, just hours after belting out 14 songs to 300 kids who knew every word like the lyrics were engrained in their throats, rubs his eyes and takes a sip of Diet Coke.

“We came up playing basements together,” he says.

“And if we have to, we’ll go down playing basements together.”
Tags: article, the wonder years, new found glory, this time next year, man overboard
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Show Review: Motion City Soundtrack and Jack's Mannequin
10/20/11 at 12:30 AM by Thomas Nassiff
Company of Thieves, Motion City Soundtrack, Jack’s Mannequin at the House of Blues in Orlando, Fla., on October 16, 2011.

Well, this was a Sunday show and it started pretty early. Too early, actually. I showed up just as Company of Thieves was beginning the last song of its set, and while I feel like I got the gist of their sound, and while I did attempt to ask around to gauge whether people enjoyed them, I’d rather reserve comment on the band.

Motion City Soundtrack came up next, in a rare supporting slot for them. Since releasing their fourth record, the phenomenal My Dinosaur Life, last year, the band has obviously done mainly headlining tours. Seeing them support had its pros and cons – while they played with a relaxed and fun vibe, 12 songs is just not enough for a band with four LPs to its name. It’s not enough for a band this good, especially a band that consistently delivers a killer performance.

Opening with “Everything Is Alright” was definitely a power play; the crowd got into the set right off the bat, and Justin Pierre’s slightly crazy demeanor is one that always draws in everybody in the club from the first song. “A Lifeless Ordinary” was a pleasant surprise in the second slot, one of the more underrated songs from My Dinosaur Life, in my opinion. About midway through the set, the crowd got a double-shot of I Am the Movie tracks, with the essential “My Favorite Accident” followed by a request from a Twitter follower, “Perfect Teeth.” The highlight of the set came right after with another request in “The Weakends,” the closing song on My Dinosaur Life. It transitioned very well into the live set, and I consider it to be one of the group’s best songs ever, so it was a treat to hear. “Better Open the Door” and “This Is For Real” were other standouts, with the closing “The Future Freaks Me Out” being a jam as always.

All in all, I thought Motion City Soundtrack made good use of its supporting slot, as taking those Twitter requests was a cool move on a tour where they can only play a dozen songs. In the end, I’d much rather see these guys when they headline; they aren’t one of my very favorite bands per se, but I do know nearly all of their songs and it’s just better when they play for over an hour. No “Make Out Kids” – no “When ‘You’re’ Around” – no “Disappear” or “Pulp Fiction” – in the end, these guys just need more time.

Jack’s Mannequin took the stage to great applause. This was my first time seeing them since they opened for Panic! At the Disco on an arena tour – I was in the ninth grade and now I’m in the 15th grade – so I was pretty excited for their set. Andrew McMahon is as charismatic as frontmen come, blending the perfect amount of raw talent with crowd-pleasing antics. Jack’s played a seemingly ideal blend of Everything In Transit, The Glass Passenger and their latest release, People & Things. They played 19 songs overall, although it felt like more. It was really a long set, and McMahon never shied away from giving us personal stories before quite a few songs. It’s obvious that he’s influenced by the storytelling greats like Springsteen, and that really comes out in a live show.

The Everything In Transit songs were predictably the most crowd-pleasing, but the five or six new songs McMahon played were probably the most compelling. On-stage antics gave the crowd a lot to cheer about, highlighted by McMahon jumping on top of his piano and dancing around before jumping off. He’s a pretty limber fellow. And although I wasn’t as fond of The Glass Passenger as I am about Jack’s Mannequin’s other two outputs, McMahon’s solo performance of “Caves” as the first song in the encore was as haunting as anything I’ve seen.

Overall it was a really fun show, but nothing that will go be particularly remembered. While Jack’s Mannequin sounded great live, they lacked a bit of the “oomph” necessary to make you remember their set forever; McMahon is the only one who fully brings it as a musician and a performer, and dancing on the piano isn’t going to cut it as a moment I’ll remember for my whole life. However, one thing I can say is that he’s clearly doing it all correctly – selling nearly 30,000 units of People & Things in its debut week is a fantastic achievement, and it might be the best record he’s ever written. So while I might criticize his live show…I’ll still see him every time he comes through.
Tags: jacks mannequin, motion city soundtrack, show review
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Show Review: Into It. Over It., Andrew Jackson Jihad, Frank Turner
10/09/11 at 09:36 PM by Thomas Nassiff
Frank Turner, Andrew Jackson Jihad and Into It. Over It. played at Double Down Live in Gainesville, Fla., on September 28, 2011.

I got to the show late, naturally, because it started at 9 p.m. and I was eating spaghetti and trying to figure out where I could buy Pokemon Snap for N64 for five hours before, so I missed about 3.5 songs of Into It. Over It.’s (hereby referred to as Evan Weiss so I don’t keep seeing the green squiggly line on MS Word) set. However, the 4.5 songs that I did see only confirmed my suspicions that Evan is one of the premier songwriters of the younger, up-and-coming generation of musicians. His songs transition really well live, even when he takes a normal jammer like the Stay Ahead of the Weather song I saw him play (cannot remember which, but I want to say it was “Impressions and Impressing People”) and turns it into a one-man show. However, and I’m sure he’ll hear a lot of this throughout the next few months, Evan recently released Proper, which is a righteous head-banger of a full-band record. He’s going to have to figure out a way to tour with a full band, be it SAOTW or helping hands from other friends, because that record is probably going to get too popular to ignore the demand. He made some pretty funny stage banter, and kept it so nothing was awkward at all, despite being a one-man show on a fairly large stage in front of probably a good 400 people. Although this was my first time seeing Into It. Over It. live, it’s been a long-overdue appointment and I’m sure I’ll be going out of my way to see him the next time he’s around.

This show wasn’t the first time I heard Andrew Jackson Jihad, but it was the first time I paid significant attention to them. They are two dudes, one with a guitar who sings, and one with a badass upright bass, and they play witty acoustic, folky stuff. In short: the set was awesome. Purely entertaining, mixing awesome banter with fun songs, they managed to keep my attention despite me not knowing a single word. I enjoyed them enough to listen to them all week on Spotify, for whatever that’s worth. I definitely recommend checking out these Arizona natives if you get the chance to – it will probably get you into them quicker than listening to one of their records.

Finally it was time for Frank Turner, and his band, dubbed the Sleeping Souls, to take the stage. This was my fourth time seeing Turner, twice by himself and this was my second time seeing him with a full band. First things first – he is much better with a band. While Turner is 100 percent the main attraction on the stage, the Sleeping Souls kick everything into a higher gear and it makes the show a much more intense experience. Turner played the best set I’ve seen him, taking most of the first half of the set to play several songs from this year’s phenomenal England, Keep My Bones. He must have played at least 8 songs from that record – a great surprise because I think it’s his best. He also mixed in a solid helping of Poetry of the Deed and Love Ire & Song. “I Knew Prufock Before He Got Famous” was, as always, a highlight, and “Substitute” and “Love Ire & Song” were both fan favorites.

Turner’s backing band was fantastic the whole night, with the electric guitars providing an amped up feeling to the set and overall, giving the set a very rock-and-roll feel. The more intense portions made me think of Turner’s stated intention to write more punk music in 2012 – something that now seems like an even better idea. Overall, it was probably one of the most impressive performances I’ve seen since watching The Gaslight Anthem about 10 months ago, and Turner comes off as one of my most highly recommended live acts due to the fact that he is based in the UK. He definitely made the most of this set of US dates, and fed the Gainesville crowd with a lot of chatter about the city’s history. A nearly flawless performance.
Tags: Into It. Over It., Andrew Jackson Jihad, Frank Turner, show review
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Early Edition: AL4W
09/25/11 at 08:33 PM by Thomas Nassiff
Finally, I am caught off guard. Most of the records I have praised this year were anticipated releases. Although some albums (The Wonder Years, The Horrible Crowes, Transit, etc) were much better than I could have predicted, and while there have been disappointments (Set Your Goals, The Swellers, The Wombats, whatever), I have yet to be completely off-guard by a release this year. A Loss for Words' No Sanctuary, their first album for Rise/Velocity Records, did just that, though.

No Sanctuary is unexpectedly diverse - not a quality I was looking for from the band that released the mediocre The Kids Can't Lose. Matty Arsenault's vocals are still some of the best in the genre, as we got a good glimpse of on their Motown Covers record. On one extreme, the album has some very poppy pop-punk; some of the songs could possibly fall into a pop-rock category. On the other hand, the title track is very punk-driven and has the heaviest parts the band has ever written, featuring screams from guitarists Nevada Smith and Marc Dangora. Arsenault's vocals blend pretty well amid the heavier parts, and it's interesting to see how a track like that feels as natural the straightforward pop-rocker "Raining Excuses."

AL4W also flash the ability to slow things down without getting generic or bland - we see this partially on "Pirouette," which is probably Arsenault's best performance on the record, and much more so on "Jetsetter." The main reason - and I keep coming back to this, for good reason - that the slow songs work is the vocals. A Loss for Words' versatility comes almost fully from Arsenault; he hits some ridiculous notes on this record and proves that he can match the powerful guitar tones without overtaking them. The musicianship here - really, the guitars - are also a highlight. Opener "Honeymoon Eyes" sort of shows that from the start, and I hope they don't release that song before the album's October 18 release date.

Everyone has already heard "The Hammers Fall," of course - and that song is a rare instance of a first track giving a pretty good insight into what the album sounds like.

It might not land among the best albums of 2011 for me, but AL4W has blown me away after a few days of listening to No Sanctuary. Among Rise Records' so-called "WTF Signings," each of the bands that we have heard new music from - Man Overboard, Transit, and now A Loss for Words - have all shown firstly that the decisions were good ones by Rise, and that signing to the label had absolutely no negative affects on their respective outputs. Now maybe we can stop hearing about that over and over again every time one of these groups has some news going on - Rise is proving itself to be a powerhouse among the punk and pop-punk scenes. This label has a lot of resources - they have the ability to put out a lot of new releases and to give each of them the push they deserve. It's tough to imagine Man Overboard and AL4W not blowing up with the help of the Rise name. Transit, meanwhile, is well on its way to becoming a much-adored AP.net favorite, and their longevity might outlast many of their peers.
Tags: a loss for words, early edition, rise records, transit, man overboard
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Movie Review: Hesher
09/14/11 at 01:54 AM by Thomas Nassiff
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Studio: Lionsgate
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devon Brochu

We don't review too many movies around here, but I think Hesher would appeal to the masses of this website just because of what it is. Press people are using the movie’s metal-based soundtrack, featuring Metallica and Motorhead, as a marketing angle. Well, this indie film, featuring a star-studded cast – Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, (500) Days of Summer), Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Thor, everything else) and Rainn Wilson (The Office) – was sort of difficult to see in theaters, but now it’s out on DVD so the nice people at Lionsgate gave me a fancy watermarked streamy thing.

Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) is basically a crazy motherfucker who listens to metal music and drives around in a van and blows shit up. Seriously, what a badass character. He ups the punx throughout the entire film, and watching JGL walk around with shitty tattoos and an “I don’t give a fuck, but at the same time I give so many fucks” attitude is great when we’re used to seeing him all dressed up with his hair slicked back.

Hesher is found living in a model home that is under construction by a young boy named TJ (Devon Brochu). TJ’s mother has recently passed away in a car accident, and his life has taken a bad turn for the worse. He lives with his father (Rainn Wilson), who is so devastated by the loss of his wife that he turns into a useless human being. Laying around on the couch, not going to work, not shaving, not doing anything to pay attention to TJ at all, TJ is given free reign and has a very adult-like attitude while he rides around town on his bicycle.

Hesher follows TJ home and, uninvited, walks right into his house and starts doing laundry. He begins to live in the garage, and TJ’s dad is too apathetic and scared – a pathetic shell of a man, really – to do anything about it. He rolls over and lets Hesher own the house, as the only other occupant is TJ’s mentally ill grandmother. Hesher, however, tries to teach TJ how to be a man. His anarchy helps TJ grow up in some unconventional ways – from dealing with bullies to coping with his mother’s death to an “it’ll never happen” crush on Natalie Portman’s character, TJ is going through a lot at the time.

Without giving away anything else about the plot – which is a lot thicker and better put-together than I was anticipating – I can say that the movie was simply more impressive than I expected. It was sad – it was a really fucking sad movie – but it also had more than its fair share of laughs. Wilson does a great job of playing a pathetic father, and Portman, as always, shines in her role. She doesn’t dominate the scenes she’s in, playing off Gordon-Levitt (who easily steals the show) very well, and although she could be considered a secondary character, there aren’t too many characters in this movie so she still stands out. I would call this movie her Garden State, but, uh, you know, she was in that movie too. It’s nice to see her dressed like a hipster, though.

This film is a great directing debut from Spencer Susser. How he managed to get such a cast on his first feature-length film is beyond me, but he definitely used the pieces perfectly. Hesher is a kick in the teeth of more traditional black comedies, mixing a good storyline and complex characters with explosions, metal music, bad tattoos and Natalie Portman. What else could you really ask for?

Highly recommended.
Tags: movie review, hesher
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Early Edition: Copy Jason Tate's First Impressions Strategy
09/14/11 at 01:22 AM by Thomas Nassiff
Buckle in. I'm copying Jason.

Transit - Listen and Forgive
Had to put this one first up. Considering the situation Transit is in, signing to Rise and getting ready to release their most anticipated record, they sure as hell did something right in the studio this time around. Keep This To Yourself was a good pop-punk record, but in the EPs and 7"s released after that, fans will notice a decided shift toward a more Midwestern 90s emo-ish sound. That transition came to fruition on the two-song Promise Nothing 7", a release that went completely against its name and gave us the promise of a great Transit full-length to come. Joe Boynton steps it up a great amount in the vocal department, and while the transition (lol?) of this band's sound is continuing, there is still enough upbeat, pop-punk-y tones here to satisfy old fans. It's amazing to watch a group like this mature before our very ears, and with Something Left Behind and Promise Nothing, we were granted the rare opportunity to watch a group's transformation between two full-lengths. I consider myself grateful for the chance to watch these guys grow up, to watch them make better music every year. Now I am grateful for Listen and Forgive - Transit's best record and a guaranteed top 10 release in 2011.

Those left with heavy hearts who try to save the world are only left to sink. You left me to sink.

New Found Glory - Radiosurgery
Okay, the first time I heard the record, I thought - this is NFG's worst output. I was disappointed. But after a few more listens, I got progressively more into Radiosurgery, and I realized I just had a problem with the first track. This is supremely surprising, as NFG has always been good about choosing a rad opener that sets the tone for their records. But the title track (which definitely should not have been the first song released) is a terrible way to open this album, in my opinion. Luckily enough, literally every other song is classic New Found Glory, with that sorta 90s-style pop-punk sound they were talking about. These guys managed to produce another gem of an album.

Jack's Mannequin - People and Things
I can't remember if I already did a first impression post about this. Either way, it'll be short. People and Things is a great mixture of Everything In Transit and The Glass Passenger - something that fans should have expected. We get quality lyricism, insanely catchy songs and a little more of the classic rock influences that McMahon doesn't always let out. I would actually like to see him do a sort of stripped-down, acoustic singer/songwriter record - get rid of the piano maybe, and see what he can do when he lets all the Petty and Dylan come out. Oh yeah, we were talking about this record. I can't think of a pop-rock record that I will rank higher in 2011...Dinner and A Suit has a good full-length, but this McMahon's voice is something I will never tire of.

All Get Out - The Season
I don't know if all that many people know about this band, but The Season is being released on Favorite Gentlemen Records (run by a certain Manchester Orchestra) so that got my attention right away. Not surprisingly, what The Season shows off is a sort of quirky indie-style, more poppy version of a band that kind of sound like Man Orch. Sound like a weird description? It is. I definitely need more time with the album, but hopefully that gets people a little excited to hear it.

Into It. Over It. - Proper
I love Evan Weiss. He and I have these silly Twitter exchanges every once in a while about burritos or some ridiculous hashtag he tweeted, and when I meet him later this month it will have been meeting that has been in the works a long time. I reviewed his IIOI/KOJI split, his Twelve Towns LP, the split with him and Such Gold that was part of the Twelve Towns project, and the Stay Ahead of the Weather EP. All positive reviews, but I like SAOTW better than Evan's solo stuff, and it's because that EP was all full-band songs. Evan is a great songwriter - I have said that MANY times - and his acoustic, stripped-down songs are fucking awesome. But Proper is a full-band record, complete with distorted guitars and pick slides and all that totally punk shit. Anyway, Proper was my favorite IIOI release before I even got to the end of it, just because I realized it was louder than his other recent outputs. This is a good thing. Hopefully he starts touring with a full band.

I have one other album that I'm not allowed to talk about yet. But uh...it's really good. That's all I can say.
Tags: early edition, into it over it, jack's mannequin, new found glory, transit
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Warped Tour Review: Florida Dates 2011
08/14/11 at 09:46 PM by Thomas Nassiff
This is a (belated) review of the Florida dates of the 2011 Vans Warped Tour.

July 29, 2011 – Orlando, Fla., Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 30, 2011 – West Palm Beach, Fla., Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 31, 2011 – St. Petersburg, Fla., Vinoy Park

I was lucky enough to go to all three dates on Less Than Jake’s tour bus. So, instead of reviewing every single day, I decided I’d just write a collective review based on each of the bands I saw. Hopefully that makes sense.

Thanks to Less Than Jake and their crewmembers for letting me crash on the couch in their front lounge and thanks to The Wonder Years and their crew for being good friends.

A Day To Remember
Makes enough sense that they’re first since I probably have the most to say about them. When I reviewed What Separates Me From You last year, or whenever that was, I really missed the mark. This is the first time I’ve realized that after the review was written. My opinion on the record isn’t any different – I still think it’s fairly mediocre and the band could have done way better – but after watching this band at the West Palm Beach date (could only watch them once because their sidestage line was so long every night), I realized I just missed the mark. The entire point of that record was to launch this band to a height it hadn’t reached before, and it fulfilled that goal in every sense. ADTR was already riding new heights of popularity with the release of Homesick, but What Separates… made this band one of the absolute biggest bands in the (insert your genre description of ADTR here) scene.

Warped was this band’s tour. They were undoubtedly the headliner. They played at 7 or 8 p.m. all three nights I was on the tour, and I don’t think they ever played early than 4 or 5 p.m. throughout the entirety of Warped. People came just to see them. After their set, there was a mass exodus to the gates. At the West Palm date, Jeremy McKinnon mosh-called his way through a set that was played to an ocean of human bodies. I watched the entire set from directly behind the drummer, and disguised in all the dummy guitar cabs, inflatable heads and t-shirt guns, there was actually something I had never seen before. I’ve just never seen so many people so into a set before. It was an amazing thing to witness from the stage, although I imagine it was cramped quarters in the crowd. My hats go off to McKinnon and the band for commanding a crowd like that every day and reaching whatever goals they had set for themselves. I’m sure they’ll be breaking more boundaries eventually.

Black Veil Brides
I only watched a bad 15 minutes of one set on one day, but I respect this band a lot more after my experience on Warped as well. Despite the 100+ degree heat index, those guys were dressed up like whatever they dress up as every moment of every day. Every time I saw them walking around with their posse, they had the ridiculous black getup with the makeup and whatever else. Good for them for keeping to their shtick the entire time, even if I think their music is bad.

Every You
These guys only played on the Kia Kevin Says Stage on the West Palm Beach date, as one of the local bands, but they made the most of that opportunity. Despite being slated for the earliest spot, they had a pretty decent crowd – possibly because their stage was right next to the gates. Kids seemed into them and I hope Kevin Lyman managed to catch a part of the set, because Every You is a band that should be on the entire Warped Tour in 2012, in my opinion.

Farewell Fighter
So Farewell Fighter didn’t actually play any of the dates that I attended, but they were one of the bands following the tour trying to sell CDs to kids in line. And they weren’t just trying to do it – they were selling a ton of CDs! At only $5 a pop, it seemed like everyone they talked to was into their music and was willing to drop a fiver on a CD. Get on this group’s bandwagon early, because they’re primed to explode by this time next year.

Less Than Jake
One of the only bands I watched on all three days, and not just because I was sleeping on their couch! LTJ had the most fun set every day that I was on Warped. Every day, Chris DeMakes brought a kid with a “Justin Beiber haircut” on stage to get a mohawk from J.R. and Buddy, and then subsequently brought a girl on stage to make out with him after his hair was new-and-improved. Less Than Jake had thousands of kids moshing to the “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Animaniacs” theme songs, they had triangle and vortex circle pits…they just had more memorable moments than any of the other bands all weekend.

Moving Mountains
Although I never caught an entire set, I did catch part of their set each day. MovMou were some of the most talented musicians on the tour, and despite not being as uptempo as the other bands, still managed to catch the attention of a good-sized crowd. Definitely check out these guys if you have yet to.

Set Your Goals
I watched them play about three songs on my first day on the tour before half of The Wonder Years’ crew got into a fight with security in the crowd. I went to help and then left their set. I didn’t see them the rest of the weekend because I was instructed to not support the band.

They were undoubtedly one of the most promising up and coming punk bands on the tour. I watched them two of the three days, and was completely immersed in their set both days despite not knowing all their songs. Meeting and interviewing them gave an awesome insight into how much work it takes for a foreign band to do this tour, and I give them as much credit as any DIY band for trekking through Warped. Pardon the following sentence, but Rise Records landed a whale with signing Sharks. This band will be doing great things in the very near future.

The Dangerous Summer
One of the few bands that I made a point to seek out to watch all three days. I can’t say enough about these guys. They now have two incredible full-lengths, and I think major labels will come calling soon enough. That should launch them even further, but in the meantime everyone spin War Paint. AJ Perdomo kills it live – and I was constantly watching Tyler Minsberg shred it on the drums. One of the best drummers on the tour.

The Menzingers
Their first day on Warped was my first day as well, so seeing them was sort of a burst of energy. They brought something a little fiery to the day, and even though I only saw them once, they killed it with a good mix of old and new.

The Narrrative
This New York-based duo was my favorite of the lighter bands on the tour. Their indie pop is something that has struck a chord with the users of this website already, and hopefully that support continues as Suzie Zeldin and Jesse Gabriel continue what they’re doing. I interviewed them about the obstacles of being a DIY band, and I can’t think of a group I’d rather spend money on. They are extremely hardworking, honest and real people that deserve your support.

The Wonder Years
There isn’t much I can say about this group that I didn’t say in my review of their last full-length. They’ve got an absurd amount of chemistry on stage, which I’m discovering might be largely in part to Michael Kennedy’s frantic beat-keeping. Kennedy was, in my opinion, the best drummer I saw during my three days. I know I didn’t see August Burns Red. But anyway, these guys are stand-up humans, beastly performers and everything that is right about new-school pop punk.

Welp, that’s everything I’ve got to report. Those three days were some of the most fun and sweaty of my life! It was a great time and I hope I get to do more next year. I encourage everyone to check out the bands I wrote nice things about!
Tags: warped tour
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"And they come on whispering, 'If you just do this for me...'"
07/03/11 at 12:12 AM by Thomas Nassiff
If you’ve never heard a song for the first time…for the very first time, not knowing the lyrics or the ebbs and flows of the musicianship…just listening, quietly, alone, intently…and felt an emotion, a tearing slash at your heart, a demon inside you that you didn’t know was there, just trying to claw its way out of you…if you’ve never heard a song for the very first time and just felt like crying for no real reason, just all at once feeling a common identity with the person who wrote that song, knowing what they were feeling, and knowing that what you feel is not felt alone, but is actually universal - or at least felt by one other person out there…if you’ve never heard a song for the first time and just knew, at that very moment, that this particular song will matter to you for years and years, and that you would laugh to this song with your friends, or cry to this song over a broken heart, or put this song on a stupid mix CD for a crush, or show that song to a classmate when they ask for a music recommendation, or play that song on your headphones and leave the world you’re in to go into that world for a few minutes…

Then we probably wouldn’t really be good friends.
Tags: 3 am, horrible crowes
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Early Edition: Horrible Crowes
06/30/11 at 10:56 AM by Thomas Nassiff
This little blog feature is now named Early Edition. It's because I used to watch that show called "Early Edition" when I was a kid, where a kitty would give a guy the newspaper for tomorrow, and he would read what happens and go save the world or whatever. I would have used that to win the lotto or something cool like that. I would have still saved people, though. So now this is called Early Edition because it's like a got the newspaper early but instead of a newspaper it's a record.



I’ve been listening to nothing but this album for about three days now. It’s fantastic. Brian Fallon’s vocals will make journalists call this band a “mellower Gaslight Anthem,” but that is lazy and it’s not even accurate. The musicianship is really not that similar, and only Fallon’s croon will bring the comparisons out. There are some standouts for sure: “Sugar” is a solid track early in the record and it’s followed by the most Gaslight-esque song on Elsie in “Behold The Hurricane.”

Every damn song is worth your while but the end of the record, with “Black Betty & The Moon” sitting there at track 10 (12 songs total), is where Elsie shines most in my opinion. “Black Betty” might just be the best song Fallon has ever written, and it’s the backbone of the whole record for me. There’s a point where Fallon is whispering that gives me shivers every time.

This is one of the best songwriters around right now doing whatever he wants. To me, this record defines Fallon as just as versatile a songwriter as Springsteen was at a similar point in his career. Fallon wrote the punk-er stuff with Sink Or Swim, he went all Born To Run on us with ‘59 Sound, and he found Gaslight’s true niche sound with American Slang. Now he pulls out this side project, with a record that most musicians will spend their whole lives wishing they could make. Fallon is my favorite songwriter around right now, and I think he is just as talented as anyone else around. I’ll follow his projects as long as he’s writing music.
Tags: horrible crowes, early edition
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06/29/11 at 03:43 PM by Thomas Nassiff
I got a trial of this yesterday and they are encouraging us to invite people. Leave your email in a comment on this blog and I'll do a massive invite tonight!
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The Springsteen Series
05/09/11 at 12:53 PM by Thomas Nassiff
Bruce Springsteen - Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
Bruce Springsteen - The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
Bruce Springsteen - Live At Hammersmith Odeon, 1975
Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Bruce Springsteen - The River
Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska
Bruce Springsteen - Born In The U.S.A.
Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel Of Love
Bruce Springsteen - Human Touch/Lucky Town
Bruce Springsteen - Live In New York City
Bruce Springsteen - The Rising
Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust
Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Bruce Springsteen - Working On A Dream
Tags: retro reviews, springsteen series, bruce springsteen, review
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Show Review: Rise Against/Bad Religion/Four Year Strong
04/27/11 at 04:11 AM by Thomas Nassiff
On April 23, I had the privilege of getting to attend the Rise Against/Bad Religion/Four Year Strong show at Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton, Fla. My friends and I unfortunately got there after Four Year Strong's set had ended, something I was really upset about because I love seeing that band play live and I thought, given the fact that only three bands were performing, that 7 p.m. was an early start time. But that's aside from the point.

Bad Religion put on a set that easily showed their marked veteran nature. More than once, the band recalled stories of when Rise Against opened for them about eight years ago, saying that this tour was to celebrate "the rise of Rise Against," which is really something true - Rise Against has blossomed into one of the largest rock bands in the world. I'm not too familiar with Bad Religion's catalog, so I really can't comment on whether they played a good setlist or not. But I've been on a huge 90s pop-punk kick lately, and after hearing the band's passionate, been-there-done-that sound, I'll surely be checking out their past releases. I do know they played a few songs off their latest release, The Dissent of Man, and something that really stuck out to me was how consistent it sounded with the older songs they played.

The opposite can't be stressed enough for Rise Against. When the Chicago punkers took the stage just before darkness fell completely at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, they opened with "Chamber the Cartridge," the first track from Sufferer and the Witness. But that wasn't an accurate portrayal of what would come during the remainder of the set, as the band focused on a lot of material from their last two records, Appeal to Reason and this year's Endgame. That pattern pleased the masses but was of great disappointment to pockets of older fans. It was amazing to see how many knew the words to "Satellite" and "September's Children" from the band's latest release, but were left standing around during "Blood-Red, White & Blue," the only song we got off Revolutions Per Minute.

Probably one-third of the set came by way of Appeal to Reason, which was something of a mixed bag for me. I liked that record much more than Endgame, but the band chose to play cuts like "Re-Education (Through Labor)," "Long-Forgotten Sons" and "Entertainment." I was pleased at the inclusion of the forever-catchy "The Dirt Whispered" and "Savior," but would have traded some of those other cuts for older material. Frontman Tim McIlrath of course slowed things down during the middle of the set to perform acoustic renditions of "Swing Life Away" and "Hero Of War," and that duo will probably remain part of this band's set for its entire career.

"Ready to Fall," "Under the Knife" and "The Good Left Undone" from Sufferer were what saved the set for me, along with the title track from that record. But aside from "Swing Life Away," the only other song off of Siren Song of the Counter Culture was the last song of the night, "Give It All." In total, only three pre-Sufferer songs were performed all night, and of the four times I've seen this band, I've never been more disappointed by their setlist.

"Blood-Red, White & Blue" was easily the highlight of the night for the older fans in the crowd, and it left me to wonder why McIlrath chose not to bring out tracks like "Heaven Knows" or "Like the Angel." What about fan favorites from Siren Song like "Life Less Frightening" or "Paper Wings," "Blood to Bleed" or "Dancing for Rain?" What happened during this band's rise to super-stardom that made them abandon the early material that made them an adored staple in the punk scene? Now what we get is radio-ready heavy rock anthems that wouldn't sound out of place if Hinder and Crossfade were on the bill instead of Four Year Strong and Bad Religion. As a friend of mine put it, "The punk in me still loves Rise Against but the hipster in me wants to hate them."

I'm not saying that McIlrath & Co. should release new records then ignore them when it comes time to play a show. McIlrath has a wife and he's a father. "Re-Education (Through Labor)" and "September's Children" are probably what pay for his house and food. But, as much as artists like to please the people that buy their new, more mainstream music, it would be good to throw a few more bones to the fans that have been around for more than a few years.
Tags: show review, bad religion, four year strong, rise against
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