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November 9, 2008 by

This is a concert review from a figure skating event for charity.  Normally, I don't really care who is providing live accompaniment, as I'm there to watch what's moving on the ice.  This time, the artist almost out-shined the World and Olympic skaters.

It was the 9th An Evening With Scott Hamilton and Friends in Cleveland.  The featured musical guest was Kenny Loggins along with The Cleveland Pops Orchestra, Carl Topilow, Conductor.

The stage is at one end of the ice.  The skaters perform routines to the live music.  You've seen this format on TV.  The only difference is, these annual shows that Scott Hamilton hosts are one-time only live events that are not taped for future broadcast.

When you see Kenny Loggins perform you realize how many songs he's written that have become hits.  From the Electric Prunes to Loggins and Messina and a successful solo career with many movie theme songs to his credit, Kenny Loggins' career has spanned over three decades.

Kenny didn't really need to encourage the audience to sing along.  Many of us grew up listening to his music on the radio.  You instantly recognized songs like "Celebrate Me Home" or "Your Mama Don't Dance".  Kenny got one of the skaters (Caryn Kadavy) to sing along with him on stage.  Even though I was watching the skater's routines, I was singing and clapping.

Kenny has a lot of energy and brought with him a four-piece band, who also provided backing vocals.  Kenny, at center stage, had the best view of the skaters interpreting his songs on the ice.  The Cleveland Pops Orchestra (especially the strings) provided a richer sound to Kenny's music.  Kenny did a song from his most recent CD "How About Now", which was just exquisite with the orchestra.  He did a couple of songs from his 1991 release "Leap of Faith" which were very well received.

The 60-year-old singer-songwriter still knows how to entertain an audience, even when the main focus is not on him.  It was a very pleasant 90-minutes listening to Kenny Loggins while watching my favorite sport.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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October 28, 2008 by Andy C

Five years ago last Tuesday, Elliott Smith died of an apparent suicide. It always seemed pretty obvious that he was rather uneasy at times with life. I'm not going to offer some long writing on why he was important or why I think he wrote such great melodies. I obviously did not know him, and don't pretend I understood what made him so good. However, I will offer three things that come to mind immediately for me with Elliott Smith.

1)My cat. I have a cat named Adeline, who is named after his song "Sweet Adeline". Adeline is not sweet. She's mean, self-centered, and rude. I love her to death.

2)I saw him in concert for the first time when I was 18. The whole "Good Will Hunting" thing had just happened. He was opening for Ben Folds Five and Beck at Star Lake. He only did about 8 songs, but it was fantastic.

3)I then saw him again on Halloween about 3 years later at CMU. It was after his release "Figure 8" came out. The band and him were in Halloween costumes. Elliott was wearing a monk outfit, but with his thin frame, and long brown hair, someone mistook him for the lord almighty and shouted, "Jesus!!" in between the first and second song. He was obviously bummed out by this. In his soft voice he said, "Awww, no. It's just a monk outfit. It's not Jesus... I mean... I don't think I'm Jesus." The tenderness with which he said it made it rather funny to me.

He is still missed.

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October 24, 2008 by

Joan Osborne came back to Pittsburgh after a long absence and hopefully she will return soon to do the songs she didn’t have time to get to in her 16-song, 1-hour and 20-minute set.

The 46-year old singer, by my count, did at least five songs from her latest CD “Little Wild One” which was released in September.  The song that seemed to get the loudest applause was “Hallelujah in the City”.  She did a nice duet with her opening act, Matt Morris, on “Cathedrals”.  Joan’s 7th studio album has a lot of the mid-tempo type songs that she’s known for.

With Joan was a 4-piece band consisting of a drummer, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist (who, like Joan, also played harmonica).  There was also lighting that made effective use of the high ceilings in the former church.

Most of Joan’s songs had a beat, although she slowed things down at one point with a Grateful Dead song  Joan, of course, did “One of Us” near the end of her set and I can still hear it in my head.

Joan came back on stage for a 3-song encore, which included a song she sang at the Grand Ole Opry that was co-written by Roy Orbison.

Matt Morris, the son of country music’s Gary Morris, is a singer-songwriter who has had his songs recorded by Reba McEntire, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.  He opened the show with a 45-minute, 9-song set that included his own songs as well as a cover of The Beatles “Help!”.  It was Matt’s first appearance in Pittsburgh and he commented that he liked the “public radio listening audience.”  Matt performed at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this year and plans to release his first full length CD soon.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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October 22, 2008 by

It's that time of year when a young man's (or even slightly aging hipster's) fancy turns to thoughts of picking the best releases of the year. This list could change hourly, but here it is and I'm sticking with it.

1) What Made Milwaukee Famous / What Doesn’t Kill Us / Barsuk

Hook-laden and sometimes challenging, the sophomore release from the Austin band mixes New Wave and classic pop influences. It gets better upon repeated listening.


2) Paul Weller / 22 Dreams / Yep Roc

Weller’s most diverse solo album to date. A mix of songs and styles that most artists—and labels—wouldn’t dare to release.


3) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings / 100 Days, 100 Nights / Dap Tone

A great ’70s style soul singer with one of the tightest backing bands around—an unforgettable mix


4) Richard Hawley / Lady’s Bridge / Mute

The Sheffield crooner is back with another can’t-miss collection of velvety ballads


5) Joe Jackson / Rain / Rykodisc

His voice has never sounded better and his trio is sparse but powerful


6) The Last Shadow Puppets / Age of the Understatement / Domino

When the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and The Rascals’ Miles Kane collaborate everything is cool—down to the CD jacket. Hopefully it will lead people to discover earlier arbiters of cool David Axelrod and Scott Walker whose vibes flow through the disc.


7) Matthew Sweet / Sunshine Lies / Shout Factory

It’s not quite Girlfriend, but it’s pretty damn close


8) Portishead / Third / Mercury

A great return that moves beyond the whole trip-hop trap.


9) Mgmt / Oracular Spectacular / Sony

Psychedelic indie pop that out Flaming Lips the Flaming Lips


10) Jim Noir / Jim Noir / Barsuk

Second album from worshipper of Brian Wilson. More electronic and experimental but just as melodic as his first.



10) Oasis / Dig Out Your Soul / Reprise

Oasis likes The Beatles. Who knew? The influence is there but with a new spin. And there’s even a sitar!


Also deserving attention: Billy Bragg / Mr. Love And Justice; Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes; Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend; David Ford / Songs For The Road; R.E.M / Accelerate; James / Hey Me; Duffy / Rockferry; Jeremy / Pop Explosion; Band of Horses / Cease to Exist; Glen Campbell / Meet Glen Campbell; Crosby Tyler / 10 Songs of America Today; Old 97s / Blame it On Gravity; Michael Carpenter & The Cuban Heels / EP



Best reissue: The Jesus And Mary Chain / The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides and Rarities


Best tribute CD: Beautiful Escape: The Songs of the Posies

Chris Fletcher


Best series: BBC live recordings


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October 19, 2008 by

To me he's not just the younger brother of James Taylor.  He's been performing for 40 years and has more than earned the right to no longer be in the shadow of JT.

Livingston Taylor brought four-decades worth of experience along with a guitar and piano to The Carlisle Theater in historic downtown Carlisle, PA.  During week days Liv guides young talent at the Berklee College of Music; while in the evenings and weekends he instructs the rest of us what it's like to command an audience.  Going to a Livingston Taylor show you learn from the master who has honed his craft and continues to perfect it.

I had a front row center seat, which isn't always the best seat in the house.  When Liv was singing at the piano, I only saw his face from the nose up.  So my focus turned to his feet.  Liv kept time, like a pendulum, with his feet.  I was fascinated.  He looked very comfortable wearing his brown Swede shoes and keeping time to the music.  Liv also moved his feet while he was standing and playing his guitar.  I also enjoyed watching Liv's facial expressions, especially his eyes.

The 90-minute show began with Liv going to the piano to sing "December 1903 (The Wright Brothers Song)".  One of my favorite songs that Liv has yet to put on a CD.  Liv had on his trademark bow tie, with a colorful sweater vest over a long-sleeved blue shirt and khaki pants.

Throughout the show Liv would go from Broadway tunes by some of his favorite lyricists to his own compositions, many of which he presented seamlessly in a medley form.  Although the best response from the audience came when he did quirky songs with titles like "Railroad Bill", "The Dollar Bill Song", "I'm Not As Herbal As I Oughta Be" and a song about wishing he was born gay.  I don't think there was a set list, instead it seemed to be whatever struck Liv's fancy or what types of songs were receiving the loudest applause.  He rotated between playing the piano and guitar.  Liv even brings the audience into a sound check, by singing "Testing 1-2-3" into the microphone.

Another highlight was his song about the Civil War called "Last Letter".  Liv came out for an encore, ending with a song that has been a part of his repertoire for many years "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

As his usual custom, Liv strolled out into the theater lobby after the show to sign CD's (they always sound better signed, he's fond of saying) and pose for photos.

Now if only the powers that be (and you know who you are) could get Livingston Taylor back to Pittsburgh for a show.  Summers don't seem complete any more without Liv here to entertain us.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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September 29, 2008 by
Posted in
September 29, 2008 by

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will be playing this year's Superbowl Halftime show in Tampa, Florida. Other recent halftime acts have included Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and U2.

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September 21, 2008 by

Once a guy who was playing his guitar while singing in front of a store met a gal selling flowers who needed her vacuum to be repaired.  They ended up making beautiful music together.  Only a good plot for a movie?  Maybe not.

Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova and The Frames came to Pittsburgh as The Swell Season.  Glen and Marketa were greeted with applause as they took the stage and began singing "Into the Mystic".  Usually performers save their most well known song for near the end of a show or even the encore, building momentum throughout the set.  The 2nd song they did was "Falling Slowly", and the concert managed to soar upwards from there.

Glen has the craft of building a song and false endings perfected.  He's very entertaining, engaging, endearing; in addition to being gifted with a great sense of humor.  Some performers wear their hearts and emotions on their sleeves, Glen can't keep his emotions contained.

Being a Presidential election year, Glen could not resist encouraging us to all go out to vote, and then suggested a candidate to cast our ballot for (and it sounded like the audience, for the most part, agreed with his choice).

All the musicians had their time in the spotlight.  Glen and Marketa showcased their talents together and as soloists.  Glen often encouraged us to sing along (and we did!).  Each song was well received with generous applause.

It was a 65-minute show, with a standing ovation, followed by a 35-minute encore.  The Frames were in a semi-circle on the stage with lights behind them at stage level, essentially framing them.  When Marketa was at the piano, her back was turned to the audience.  She did take center stage with the guitar to sing a couple of times and Glen went to the piano.  The Frames violinist shined on many songs throughout; he was given a chance during the encore to shine on his own.

Glen seemed to appreciate the response from the audience and recalled how they are now able to play bigger theaters thanks to the success of "Once".  They sang many songs from that soundtrack, plus songs from The Frames as well as a couple of brand new songs, which may soon become fan favorites.

What a swell evening of music.  I can't wait to hear more from Glen, Marketa and The Frames in the future. 

Bill Callahan (also known as "Smog") opened the show.  He sang and played electric guitar; accompanied by a drummer for his 45-minute set.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

P.S. Glen's local musican friend who joined him on stage is Mark Dignam:

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September 16, 2008 by

A full harvest moon, a full club (with electricity!) and two talented singer-songwriters.

Shawn Mullins made his second appearance in Pittsburgh this year, opening for Dar Williams.  Shawn came on stage at 8 pm in blue jeans, white shirt with a tie, sport coat and hat.  Still out in support of “honeydew”, which was released in March, he sang a few songs from that CD, including the tragic true tale of “The Ballad of Kathryn Johnston” and the song that was heard in the TV show “Scrubs” “All in My Head”, adding his thanks to WYEP for the airplay.  Shawn remembered Rosebud across the river and said “Beautiful Wreck” was inspired by playing in such venues.  He reminded us that he was briefly in a group called The Thorns, with Pete Droge and Matthew Sweet (who he noted will be coming to Pittsburgh soon).  When Shawn talked about The Thorns CD, I clapped in recognition, not realizing I was the only one who was acknowledging the CD.  Shawn looked in my direction and said that his parents bought a copy of the CD and now he knows who bought the other copy.  Here's my copy of The Thorns CD, which I got signed by Shawn years ago (and it reminds me I should get Pete and Matthew’s signatures someday too). 


While Shawn was in high school, he took one of those career education courses.  One day Amy Ray (now of the Indigo Girls) performed for the class, and this apparently helped to inspire Shawn.  Amy even wrote Shawn a 10-page letter to encourage him.  I love it when singer-songwriters tell stories about their songs, even ones they did not write.  Normally I’m not a fan of “covers”, but Shawn’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” (written by a female and sung from that prospective) is a natural fit.  Shawn wrapped up his 65-minute acoustic set with his Australian hit “Shimmer” and a medley :) of his hit “Lullaby”.

Shawn Mullins and Dar Williams have been friends for years, so it’s only natural that they are now touring together.

Dar Williams came with her guitar, a percussionist, and a keyboardist to tell us that Pittsburgh is one of her favorite cities.  In fact if she had six houses, one would be in Pittsburgh.  Dar is an engaging performer who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about her music.  Almost bubbling over.  Dar mentioned a couple of times she was disappointed that she could not play at WYEP that afternoon (due to the power outage) and that she sent an email to her management company to book another show in Pittsburgh along with a visit to WYEP (she mentioned maybe in January).  Dar only played a couple of tracks from her new CD “Promised Land”, including the first release the catchy “It’s Alright”.  Requests were shouted from the audience, and Dar obliged her fans a couple of times.  Her back-up group gave the songs an even fuller sound from the small stage.  Dar’s blend of “folk-pop” was mostly up-tempo during her 95-minute set, except when she sent her band off-stage so she could sing a couple of songs without accompaniment.  She also returned to the stage alone to do one song for the encore.

A full moon shined down on the South Side, as we were treated to over 2-1/2 hours of music by 2 amazing singer-songwriters.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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September 15, 2008 by

I was going to write a mini-bio to precede the John Vanderslice interview below, but I can't really tell you anything that way that you couldn't read somewhere else.I can tell you that I did once ride the subway with him.  I sat a few seats away with a friend while John talked to two kids on an otherwise empty Manhattan train.  He asked them how they liked CMJ so far, what bands they had seen, how their stay in New York was going.  He never mentioned that he was a musician himself.  Never mentioned that he was also attending CMJ.  Never mentioned that he had his own showcase in the halls of Lincoln Center.  He was simply talking to some kids from somewhere that was not New York City about how their week was going.

I have the feeling that if I had written John 100 questions, I might have gotten 100 responses (or maybe 97 - one question I asked about his appraisal of the Rick Ross scandal went unanswered).  John Vanderslice is one of those people who seem to fill every second of every day re-recording entire albums in a chicken coop or taking a photo of a trebuchet or concocting a video blog tour or running a recording studio or opening for Death Cab for Cutie, in between eating a bagel or reading the paper or talking to his mom on the telephone.  It's like he takes all these stories and experiences we're all exposed to everyday and scraps them into beautiful little snowglobes.

Below are my questions and John's answers, traded over email.  All punctuation and text credited to John are his own.

-Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday

WYEP: First of all, I have to say - I love the black coat you are wearing on the cover of Emerald City.  Where did you get it?

JV: it's from my ex-girlfriend's store minnie wilde ( she was on the shoot helping out with clothes. it's a girl's jacket, maybe a few sizes too small for me. i really love that jacket.

WYEP: And at whose feet are you sitting in that picture?

JV: autumn dewilde, the photographer, saw my neighbor sitting in her open garage listening to dr laura. she told me to pull the car over and, in her calm and savvy way, talked the woman into sitting with me for some shots. i was sure they were throw aways, but like everything you do with autumn, they came out fantastic. i haven't seen her since.

WYEP: Do you feel like you have to know someone pretty well to include their perspective in your songs, or is sketching in the details yourself more important?

JV: the better i know someone the harder it is to write about them. for me there has to be a distance, or an absence.

WYEP: Do you feel a responsibility to tell the stories of people (American soldiers, civilians in war) who might not have their own forum to speak?

JV: i don't feel a responsibility, i'm mostly interested in telling interesting stories. sometimes that means writing about justin timberlake.

WYEP: Do you worry about authenticity when you write from other peoples' perspectives?

JV: oh yeah, i worry about that!

WYEP: It's almost expected for hip hop artists to have some kind of cross promotional car/drink/clothing line endorsement deal.  Have you ever turned down a commercial offer on your music?

JV: no, but i haven't been offered tons of stuff. placements don't really worry me, if it got invasive and stupid, like banners hanging from stage, i'm sure it would be a turn-off.

WYEP: How do you decide what to charge money for?  You've given a lot away over the years - MP3 remixes, video blog tours, streaming albums.

JV: we always try to have some free material released every cycle. for next year, there should be a free digital EP. we charge when we have to, so people stay paid. otherwise, music feels to me like it should be free.

WYEP: Would you ever score a TV show?  If yes, what would be your dream opportunity in that realm?

JV: oh yes, for sure. i'm a tv junkie. 30 rock, house, mad men, the office, the list goes on.

WYEP: I think you and your current band would kill as the house band for a quiz show or detective series.  Speaking of which - how permanent is your touring band?  Ever fantasize about being back in a full band and sharing all the responsibilities and creative processes with other people?

JV: well i wish they were more permanent but they play in a lot of other bands. i'll be lucky to keep them together next year. yes i would love to be a sideman in a huge band. getting a per diem and direct deposit. hell yeah.

WYEP: Your current setup allows you some maneuverability to do things like the blog tour.  Is the old touring model -  spending two months driving around in a van crammed with gear - dying in the same way that the giant record label promotional approach is dying?

JV: well, i am very attached to that old touring model, but price pressures and competition (the unbelievable number of bands out on tour at any given moment) may change how profitable it is. i've heard numerous bands talk about skipping smaller markets and doing more fly-ins to make money. i think bands are going to figure out all kinds of new ways to make a living doing this.

WYEP: How has the last batch of recordings turned out?  Is there an album with a central idea taking shape?

JV: well, things are starting to make more sense. we're at song #16, i'll write and record 24 before the end of the year. btw, that's really hard for me, i usually do about 12-15 a year. i set the number very hard to see if i can jar loose something in my brain and break some of the patterns i'm in.

WYEP: You've been very personally affected by the policies of the current administration [ed. note - there was a time when John's Parisian girlfriend's visa application was put through the ringer by Homeland Security].  Was there ever a silver lining creatively in that experience?  Do bad times make for good art?

JV: i wouldn't say there's been any silver lining for me, i think i'd much rather be challenged to find material than having all these awful things happen.

WYEP: Guns, hockey, oil money, teen pregnancy...this stuff seems totally in your wheelhouse - can we look forward to a Sarah Palin-inspired song from you in the near future?

JV: she's too calculating to get a song from me. there's nothing tragic about her...yet!


Posted in
September 2, 2008 by

This summer we asked WYEP listeners to vote for their 10 favorite songs from the 1990's. We tallied the votes, and turned the list into a countdown show that aired on Labor Day. There's some surprises here, along with some "sure things". Overall, we think its a pretty good list, our listeners have good taste.

Here it is...

100 Cake - The Distance "Fashion Nugget" 1996
99 Grant Lee Buffalo - Mockingbirds "Mighty Joe Moon" 1994
98 Natalie Merchant - Wonder "Tigerlily" 1995
97 Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mine "Blue Sky Mining" 1990
96 Cracker - Low "Kerosene Hat" 1993
95 Depeche Mode - Policy of Truth "Violator" 1990
94 Liz Phair - Polyester Bride "whitechocolatespaceegg" 1998
93 Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning "Rumour and Sigh" 1991
92 Nirvana - Come As You Are "Nevermind" 1991
91 Dave Matthews Band - Two Step "Crash" 1996
90 Goo Goo Dolls - Iris "Dizzy Up the Girl" 1998
89 No Doubt - Don't Speak "Tragic Kingdom" 1995
88 Pavement - Summer Babe "Slanted & Enchanted" 1992
87 Presidents of the United States of America - Peaches "Presidents of the U.S.A." 1995
86 Counting Crows - Round Here "August & Everything After" 1993
85 Pearl Jam - Better Man "Vitalogy" 1994
84 Aimee Mann - Save Me "Magnolia Soundtrack" 1999
83 Beck - Devil's Haircut "Odelay" 1996
82 Blues Traveler - Run Around "Four" 1994
81 Concrete Blonde - Joey "Bloodletting" 1990
80 R.E.M. - Man On The Moon "Automatic for the People" 1992
79 Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealin' "Ritual De Lo Habitual" 1990
78 Dar Williams - As Cool As I Am "Mortal City" 1996
77 Pulp - Common People "A Different Class" 1995
76 Red Hot Chili Peppers - Give it away "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" 1991
75 Smashing Pumpkins - Disarm "Siamese Dream" 1993
74 Tori Amos - Silent All These Years "Little Earthquakes" 1992
73 U2 - Mysterious Ways "Achtung Baby" 1991
72 Weezer - Buddy Holly "Blue Album" 1994
71 Wilco - Misunderstood "Being There" 1996
70 Ben Folds Five - Battle of Who Could Care Less "Whatever and Ever Amen" 1997
69 Blur - Song 2 "Blur" 1997
68 Counting Crows - Rain King "August & Everything After" 1993
67 Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me "Crash" 1996
66 Elliot Smith - Waltz #2 "XO" 1998
65 Iggy Pop - Candy "Brick by Brick" 1990
64 KD Lang - Constant Craving "Ingenue" 1992
63 Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray "It's A Shame About Ray" 1992
62 Tori Amos - Crucify "Little Earthquakes" 1992
61 Portishead - Sour Times "Dummy" 1994
60 Bush - Glycerine "Sixteen Stone" 1994
59 Cranberries - Zombie "No Need to Argue" 1994
58 Foo Fighters - Everlong "The Color and the Shape" 1997
57 Spin Doctors - Two Princes "Pocket Full of Kryptonite" 1991
56 They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople) "Flood" 1990
55 Pearl Jam - Even Flow "Ten" 1991
54 Belly - Feed the Tree "Star" 1993
53 Billy Bragg & Wilco - California Stars "Mermaid Avenue" 1998
52 Mazzy Star - Fade into You "So Tonight that I Might See" 1993
51 Soul Asylum - Runaway Train "Grave Dancer's Union" 1992
50 Peter Gabriel - Digging in the Dirt "Us" 1992
49 James - Laid "Laid" 1993
48 Cranberries - Dreams Everyone "Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We?" 1993
47 Whiskeytown - 16 Days "Strangers Almanac" 1997
46 Cornershop - Brimful of Asha "When I was Born for the 7th Time" 1997
45 Tori Amos - Cornflake Girl "Under the Pink" 1994
44 Radiohead - Karma Police "OK Computer" 1997
43 Alanis Morrisette - Ironic "Jagged Little Pill" 1995
42 Seal - Crazy "Seal" 1991
41 Dave Matthews Band - Ants Marching "Under the Table and Dreaming" 1994
40 Sublime - Santeria "Sublime" 1996
39 Fiona Apple - Criminal "Tidal" 1996
38 Barenaked Ladies - Brian Wilson "Gordon" 1992
37 Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy "New Miserable Experience" 1992
36 Indigo Girls - Galileo "Rites of Passage" 1992
35 Fugees - Killing Me Softly "The Score" 1996
34 The Wallflowers - One Headlight "Bringing Down the House" 1996
33 Lisa Loeb - Stay "Tails " 1995
32 Smashing Pumpkins - Today "Siamese Dream" 1993
31 Pavement - Cut Your Hair "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain " 1994
30 Oasis - Don't Look Back in Anger "What's the Story Morning Glory?" 1995
29 Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend "Girlfriend " 1991
28 Bob Dylan - Not Dark Yet "Time Out of Mind" 1997
27 Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees "The Bends" 1995
26 Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah "Grace" 1994
25 R.E.M. - Nightswimming "Automatic for the People" 1992
24 Blind Melon - No Rain "Blind Melon " 1992
23 Smashing Pumpkins - 1979 "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" 1995
22 They Might be Giants - Birdhouse in Your Soul "Flood " 1990
21 The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" 1991
20 Rusted Root - Send Me On My Way "Cruel Sun " 1992
19 Radiohead - Paranoid Android "OK Computer" 1997
18 Live - Lightning Crashes "Throwing Copper" 1994
17 Radiohead - Creep "Pablo Honey" 1993
16 Pearl Jam - Alive "Ten " 1991
15 Ben Folds Five - Brick "Whatever and Ever Amen " 1997
14 Cranberries - Linger Everybody "Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We?" 1993
13 Sarah McLachlan - Possesion "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy " 1993
12 Sinead O'Connor - Nothing compares 2 U "I Do Not Want..." 1990
11 Pearl Jam - Jeremy "Ten " 1991
10 Beck - Loser "Mellow Gold" 1994
9 Pearl Jam - Black "Ten " 1991
8 Breeders - Cannonball "Last Spash " 1993
7 The Counting Crows - Mr. Jones "August and Everything After" 1993
6 Alanis Morrisette - You Oughta Know "Jagged Little Pill" 1995
5 The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony "Urban Hymns" 1997
4 R.E.M - Losing My Religion "Out of Time" 1991
3 Oasis - Wonderwall "What's the Story Morning Glory?" 1995
2 U2 - One "Achtung Baby " 1991
1 Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit "Nevermind " 1991

Posted in
August 29, 2008 by

ADD Surf Rock?  Jazzercise Punk? Joy-Thrash?  Baltimore's Ponytail creates music that is hard to define but pure fun to experience.  The foursome constructs beautiful, churning waves of melody that simultaneously evoke the technical proficiency and experimental vocals of jazz, and the aggressive and independent spirit of punk. 

(Clockwise from top: Jeremy, Molly, Dustin, Ken)

Their new album, Ice Cream Spiritual, sees the band adding to its high-energy approach with new sounds and multiple-movement song structures.  The four members passed the phone as I spoke to them while they travelled to New York for a concert.  An excerpt of that discussion after the jump.

-Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday

WYEP: You all met at the Maryland Institute - was music at all part of your education or was it a hobby in addition to what you were studying?

Dustin (guitar): Well the class we took together - we knew that it was going to be a band thing - we were going to get formed into a band.  But we didn't know who was going to be in which band.  Of course, we love music.  We all listen to music and we're all big fans of music.

WYEP: So Ponytail actually came out of a class you signed up for?

Dustin: Yeah.

WYEP: Wow.  What was the syllabus like?

Dustin: The syllabus?  I can't really remember it from the top of my head, but it was you form a band and you work on one art project.  That's pretty much what the whole class was.  Every week the professor would show a film.  He showed Gimme Shelter, The Piano Teacher.  

[Asking the others] What were some of the...what were some of the -

Unidentified Ponytail Member:  -Nashville

Dustin: -Nashville was another one.  Just like stuff that really kind get a vibe of what music is about.

WYEP: That sounds like a really interesting experience.

Dustin: Yeah it was really great.

WYEP: How many kids were in the class?

Dustin: There were probably thirty-five kids.

WYEP: Were you randomly assigned or did you play pieces and audition and then the professor put you together?

Dustin: Oh no no, there was no audition.  It was just the professor pointing at each...he'd be like 'You're a hot girl, and you're a hot girl...'

WYEP: [Laughs]

Dustin: 'You're a band!'

WYEP: It was a first day, just pairing people up and sending them on their way?

Dustin: Well the first week he didn't form the bands, he Just kind of explained what the class was about and he let us out early.  And then the second week - it's really funny actually - we were all sitting in a circle.  It was a large classroom and each student was kind of in the circle and the professor was direct in the middle, [turning] 360s and observing the students.  And then he would pick people out.

WYEP: So I guess it was in part based on your social interaction and what he saw happening.

Dustin: Yeah.  He would kind of feel out each person's vibe and then put them together.

WYEP: That's a really cool idea.

Dustin: I think it's just fun to be in his spot, you know?  I'd love to do that.

WYEP:  Did you start playing shows right out of that class or was it a long time before you got to that point?

Dustin: No no, we practiced once a week until the end of the semester which was where all the bands would come together.  We had a big party - it was called Parapalooza - and all the bands would play the songs they'd written in the course of the semester.  It's just a good time, and we were just practicing up to that point and it was really fun.  We wanted to continue.

WYEP: What was the initial reaction for Ponytail in Baltimore? Was it intimidating coming through [art crew/performance space] Wham City?

Dustin: I was really nervous when we played our first shows, but there wasn't any sort of pressure, I don't think.  Everybody was really supportive and we love being supported.

WYEP: Were there certain bands that were really helpful as far as when you were starting out and playing your first shows?

Dustin: Yeah, yeah.  Double Dagger, whose a band from Baltimore invited us to play a show.  Dan Deacon has been super helpful.  It's great.


WYEP: How was it starting out in Baltimore?

Molly (vocals): Everybody is extremely supportive of each other and really wanted something to happen.  And it did.

WYEP: How has your family reacted to Ponytail so far?

Molly: My family's really into it actually.  My family is so so supportive.  My sister actually is super into it.  She made me a scrap book of all our early reviews.

WYEP: That's awesome.

Molly: It's really sweet.  Even my grandparents came to our show in Phoenix.  My grandpa's ninety now.

WYEP: Wow...

Molly: Yeah!  [laughs]

WYEP: That's effort.

Molly: Yeah - it's pretty amazing.  So I'm really lucky.

WYEP: Your vocals are not usually word sounds, and you have song titles that are sometimes made up of punctuation.  Do you think there's a benefit to be a little harder to understand?

Molly: I think we're interested in that - in not being able to fully understand.  I don't know if we fully understand, really. [laughs]

WYEP: Do your songs change much show to show because of that?

Molly: The feeling of doing it, from show to show, changes a lot.  The songs themselves have been pretty stagnant, staying the same.  But of course they change slightly - I guess I improv some every time.

WYEP: Do you consider your music rebellious compared to what else is out there and what you grew up listening to?

Molly; There's an element of rebellion, I think.  We're reacting to what we're surrounded by and what we grew up with.  We're all a little rebellious.  Also, at this point, we just really want to make something we're interested in more than just something different.  It's not all rebellion, but it is an element.

WYEP: How aware of you of Pop culture?  Is what's happening in the rest of the world ever a direct source of inspiration for song writing?

Molly: Definitely.  I think we've been referencing elements of Pop culture since we began.  With the Beatles drum line at the beginning of the song - [asking others] which song is it again? It's -

Unidentified Ponytail Member:  - "Dear God" [Ponytail song "Dear God Plz Make My 2Eyes N2 One"]

Molly: "Dear God." Beginning no no, beginning of which Beatles song?

Unidentified Ponytail Member: Oh, oh.  "The End." [The Abbey Road song]

Molly: Yeah!  "The End."  The beginning of "The End."  That was the beginning of the end! [laughs]   I think we're definitely interested in referencing Pop culture.  We've always been aware of what we might sound like or what we might be taking from and we're sort of excited about that.  You can only go so far with it, but we're excited about that.


WYEP: Ken, you were recently part of a Stereogum feature called Quit Your Day Job.  You talked about how you're currently a security guard at the Maryland Institute.  Have there been moments where you had to commit to the band, where you realized 'This is definitely what I want to do, I'm going to turn down this other job' or 'I'm going to turn down this grad school opportunity'?

Ken (guitar): This week I worked my last shift, I think, as a security guard for that job because we're going to be away for so long.

WYEP: Congratulations!

Ken: Oh thanks.  It's the easiest Job.  Ever.  It was great for - it was easy to pick up shifts and stuff but it just didn't pay very well.  It was good to have that kind of Job, but I don't know if I want to do it during the school year.  As far as turning down opportunities, I think you fantasize about stuff - going places and doing things.  But the reality of the situation is that we've gotten so many opportunities by doing the band that it's been more like seizing opportunities than missing out on opportunities.  Getting to travel and meet lots of people and play great shows - just being humbled by opportunities like recording.  People listening to our records is an awesome opportunity in itself.

WYEP: You guys definitely do play great shows.  It's a really interactive show - I don't think I've seen too many shows where the audience moves as much, if not more, than the band.  Are there things that you guys try to create live that make that kind of connection?

Ken: The air around a show is always different, and it's unpredictable, but there's always an opportunity for it to get really fun.  When it's fun, we feel like we're channeling something, to be honest.  I don't know how that sounds, but when I'm playing I just close my eyes and stick my tongue out and play. [laughs]  It seems like in some places, kids have definitely been bringing the mosh and kicking up some dust.  It's cool.  I feel like it comes with the territory of what we play and we're excited so it's a compliment when the audience is excited to.

WYEP: It's really rare to have songs that are as high energy and as complex as your songs are, so I don't know if people even know how to react to that.

Ken:  [laughs] Thanks!  We stayed at a house last night.  Our friend, his dad [owner of the house], is an audiophile and has a really good sound system.  We were like 'Let's listen to one of our songs on it' and we listened to it and afterwards I was like 'That was intense!'  So I know how you feel.

WYEP: When you recorded Ice Cream Spiritual, was there a lot of overdubbing or was it mostly live, all four in a room?

Ken: Mostly live.  There were overdubs; they were mainly to add flavors in with panning.  There's a few things we probably could have done live, but we wanted to make some spaces and panning and stuff.  I don't know if I want to say almost all of it, but every song was recorded live and there were overdubs added on.  We met with J. [Robbins, producer] before we recorded and talked a lot, setting up the room in a way that we could really do it live.  I think it sounds pretty live.

WYEP: It definitely does.  Speaking of J., how were you approached to do the Callum benefit?

Ken: We got an email about it recently.  It was unanimous that we wanted to do it.  We love J. and working with him was incredible.  It was the least we could do.

WYEP: It's been really cool to see people react in such a direct way.  Even people who aren't associated with the concerts, who aren't playing on the bills are still linking to the website and still saying 'This is really important, this kid deserves a chance and if you can do anything, try to help out.'

Ken: After meeting J...he's Just one of the humblest and hardest working people I've ever met.  I think just the person that he is - we all owe J. Robbins.  If you ever met him, he's a great guy.


WYEP:  What do you think makes a live show good?  When do you know it's been a good concert?

Jeremy (drums): I love it when the crowd is having a really good time - it definitely reflects and bounces back to us.  But usually, we can kind of create our own space on stage, or if we're on the floor, on the floor.  If the connection is good between us, it's usually a good show for me.

WYEP: Between the four of you?

Jeremy: Yeah, between the four of us.  I always feel really good, even if there's three people a show and they don't like us - which luckily hasn't happened - if we all feel good about the way we played.

WYEP:  When do you know when a song is done, as far as song writing goes?

Jeremy: Usually what happens is it takes a while just in practice to flesh out all the ideas and get a basic structure together.  And then, once it feels pretty good, we'll kind of play it, try it out live.  That's usually a really good indicator if it's working.  Actually last night, we tried out something during sound-check that Just felt wayyy off, but felt really good when we were writing it.

WYEP: This is probably my last question, and definitely my most important.  You guys have had really great spots as far as an opening band for Hella, and Battles, and Don Caballero and High Places.  Would you rather open for GWAR or Fleetwood Mac?

Jeremy: GWAR or Fleetwood Mac?  Oh Fleetwood Mac, for sure!

WYEP: What do the other three think?

Jeremy: [Poses the question to the other three]  Fleetwood Mac.  Unanimous.  

WYEP: Completely unanimous? 

Jeremy: Yeah.  We're huge Fleetwood Mac fans.



Posted in
August 29, 2008 by Andy C


The Dodo's are a band that is getting alot of critical praise this year for their release "Visiter". It's totally deserved. They're a duo from the San Francisco bay area, made up of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber, who seem to enjoy harmonies, percussion, and rock n' roll with their folk music. That's at least what I keep reading, and it's all true. I would just add that like most good music, it holds elements of a lot more than that. I'm not going to join the superlative bandwagon on this one. I'll just say I find it highly enjoyable.

Long is apparently rather interested in the West African style of percussion know as Ewe drumming. It's very rhythmic, and you can hear this throughout their music. Pounding drums mixed in with Longs finger picking, that reminds you almost of bluegrass at times, makes for a rather unique sound.

I had a chance to see them this past spring at the Garfield Artworks, and their just as good live. They were playing as a trio that night, with the third member adding more percussion to the mix (xylophone, trash cans, toy pianos, etc.). It created a sound in the small venue that pounded against your chest, while the great melodies stuck in your head.

If I had to pick the best album of 2008 right now, so far, this would be it.  You can hear them on my show from time to time.  Tuesday evenings from 8pm-12am.

-Andy, Tuesday Evening Mix


Posted in
August 21, 2008 by

As the sun was setting over Burgettstown, John Mayer and his seven-piece band (including sax and trumpet) entered the dark pavilion stage to perform a two-hour show.

The fans at the John Mayer concerts seem to be getting younger.  Or, maybe, I’m just getting older.  The young ladies in the crowd were screaming loudly how much they loved John - I’m sure I will regain my hearing soon.  We have family in town from CT, and my 17-year-old nephew (who will be seeing John in his home state of CT) seemed impressed that I not only knew who John Mayer was, but that I was attending my 3rd John Mayer concert.  Maybe old Aunt Barb is more hip than he originally thought.

The fans seemed to know every word of every song that John sang.  I just hope they are getting the message too.  John’s lyrics are quite sophisticated for someone who will be turning 31 in October.  In the 2 years since I’ve last seen John live, he has matured as a performer, but there’s still some polishing left to do.  The pregnant pauses in between songs could be a bit shorter.  Yes I realize they’re changing guitars and setting up for the next song, but it breaks up the “Continuum” of the show.  In 2007, John was named one of the “New Guitar Gods” and nicknamed “Slowhand, Jr.”, and he showed why he deserved that honor during his 16-song set.  Nice additions to the band were sax and trumpet players.  The lighting on stage was also very effective.

One of the songs I was hoping to hear was “Free Fallin”, which John sang and gave credit to Mr. Tom Petty (do the young fans even know who Tom Petty is?).  I was also thrilled to hear the new release “Say”, which really comes to life live.  Another highlight was “Stitched Up”.  It was a very nice touch for John to sign someone's program before leaving the stage, prior to the encore.

During the show, John did not talk to the audience much, but he made up for it during the encore.  The Grammy Award winner shared insights about the final three songs.  On John’s website, the fans are invited to “pick the encore” song they would like John to sing.  The top vote getter for Burgettstown was “Man On the Side” (for the record, I voted for “Stop This Train”).  At first, it seemed that John didn’t remember how the song went (noting it was the 2nd song he wrote) and then proceeded to tell a story about meeting a girl in the Berklee College of Music cafeteria in Boston and how she stood him up.

Check out the set list here.

Perfect August weather, made it an even more perfect night for the music of John Mayer live.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

Posted in
August 15, 2008 by

There's a free download of The Duhks "Mighty Storm" available on their label's website. Their new CD, "Fast Paced World", is being released on August 19th.

The Duhks will be in town in September!

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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