Welcome Back, Michael Arnone’s 31st Annual Crawfish Festival!

Growing up in Sussex County, NJ meant a lot of things for me in the summers. The best corn on the cob, the best tomatoes, summers spent in cool spring-fed lakes, and something always going on at the Sussex Fairgrounds. One of those things was the annual visit from Michael Arnone and his Crawfish Festival. The fest itself has a great back story. A few decades ago in 1989, some homesick Louisiana folks stuck up here in the Northeast decided to enjoy some music and a crawfish boil to bring their hearts home if their bodies couldn’t be there. They had such a good time that the idea kept going, growing every year, getting bigger and more incredible… and delicious! What started out as a good time for friends has grown into one of New Jersey’s most beloved annual events.

This year will be the 31st annual Crawfish Fest.

Thanks to Covid, it won’t be without some changes. The fest is normally a kickoff to the summer festival season for many of us, but for the sake of safety, this year’s Crawfish Fest will be taking place in August on the 27th through the 29th. No matter though, as the music will still be just as hot as the weather! The talents of Tab Benoit, Samantha Fish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Bonerama, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Amanda Shaw, Honey Island Swamp Band, and many many more! It’s three stages of the best in Cajun, Zydeco, Delta Blues, New Orleans R&B, Brass, Gospel, and Jazz. There are even free Cajun/Zydeco Dance lessons. I’ll be there for that. Lord knows I need all the help I can get!

This is the kind of festival where you need not only your best dancing shoes, but you also need your best eating pants. Unfortunately the late date does impact the crawfish boil. I admire the heck out of Mr. Arnone in that he won’t pretend to serve up a pile of frozen crawfish in a boil if he can’t get fresh. Those delicious little buggers are out of season in August. However, he is making sure those southern flavors are still WELL represented here to compliment the music. Crawfish Etouffee, Alligator Sausage, Po-Boys, Southern Fried Chicken, and more – all $12.00 or less. My mouth is watering just typing this. I want to eat all the things…

The fun doesn’t stop with the music and the food though. Do you like to camp at festivals? You can do that too! There are camping passes and various campgrounds that range in party atmosphere to quieter for families and those who actually like to sleep. You can bring your tents, pop-ups, or RV’s! (though I hear RV passes might be nearly sold out now) There is even a spot to set up your tent for the day if you don’t plan to stay overnight. Campsite hangs are the best part of any festival, after all. Check the ticket and FAQ links on the website for more information on that.

Tickets are presently on sale and tickets from 2020 are still being honored. After 31 years of doing this festival, you can be assured you are in for a heck of a good time. Somehow in all my years with this amazing festival in my backyard, I have yet to make it there! This year is going to be our first, and we can’t wait to see you all there and shake it with you! You can get tickets and all the information you could possibly need at the festival website, http://www.crawfishfest.com

We will have more information on the artists, food, and lineups leading up to the festival, so get your tickets and keep an eye here for more!

Check out the daily line-up posted below for more details:

See you out there, friends!

Peak, Bookends of the Pandemic, and Live from Yasgur’s Farm

We were drenched from head to toe, despite our thin plastic ponchos. We were cold, as the temperature had dropped into the mid 40’s with a wind that ebbed and flowed with its own prerogative. We carried nothing but my “zoo bag” purse strung across my body and a cold bag full of beer and alcoholic iced tea. We shivered as we walked through the mud, dodging puddles that swallowed whole feet and filled shoes. Under normal circumstances, we were in a situation that would have had us declaring “fuck this” and heading back to our sketchy but warm motel room in Monticello and ordering some takeout while planning an early voyage back home to our own lake in New Jersey. 

But that wasn’t tonight. Tonight was special. Our dear friends in Peak had invited us to Yasgur’s Farm to see them play Yasgur Road Productions’ “May Meltdown” festival. It was not a normal festival. We have shown up for lots of festivals, but this was different. This was a legendary place. The entire area has an infectious energy that seems to come up from out of the dirt. Every single day people arrive just to feel it. But there was so much more to this evening.

Before COVID came and closed all the clubs and all the venues, before it took over our schools, our hospitals, our families and our entire lives, the last show we saw out and about in the world was Peak. We saw them play at The Bowery Electric on February 29th, 2020 and it was a wonderful, pure, and energetic evening. I look at the photos from that night and I can feel the sweat I was shedding as I danced, and I can feel the joy that I felt in that moment as I let myself be enveloped by the kind of magic that only music can conjure. For the entirety of the COVID shutdown, I thought often of that feeling and that show. The insecurity that was brought on by over a year in relative isolation, despite occasional cheat days with friends we knew were clear of COVID due to recent testing, created a haze on the joy that live music had always given me. It’s such a strange thing to think about. But anyway, our last show before the world went crazy and then shut down was Peak. 

It surprises me none that our first show back would also be Peak.

I just had no idea it would be in a place I had been trying to get to my whole life. 

To know me is to know that I have kind of a pervasive fascination with the Woodstock festival. My husband has on more than one occasion called it a weird obsession. He’s not totally wrong. For me, it’s like an itch. It’s an itch that no amount of watching the videos or listening to the record has ever been able to scratch for me. My parents were 19 years old in August of 1969 and in my opinion, the perfect age to understand and appreciate everything that it was, whether or not they actually did. They met in college at what was at that time Glassboro College. They both remember that weekend vividly, even though neither one of them attended the festival. They saw the feature film from Woodstock in the movies on a date. It was a highlighting of so many artists that they knew and loved and it was important to them. As a result, every single time that PBS played the film during a telethon throughout my childhood in the entirety of the 80’s, we watched it. We watched it as a family. I knew all the dialogue from beginning to end.

Much of my teenage years were spent listening to modern music that I loved but split evenly with the music my folkie parents raised me to love. Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Jefferson Airplane, Etc etc etc. I used to pick at their brains about these artists and why they loved them. What their lives were like when they first heard them. What they thought about the songs. I feel like I could just go on forever. No matter what I heard in my life, no matter what band or artists I fell in love with (and there were many), no music ever resonated with me or felt like it understood me like that. It makes perfect sense to me why I would enjoy watching Woodstock. But why is it so deep? It didn’t matter tonight. Tonight, I was here, and I was here with some of my favorite people. We had made it through all of this, and here we were.

I showed up with my husband on this rainy, cold night. We got our wrist bands from the amazing women set up in ponchos under a canopy in front of the barn proclaiming the Yasgur name. Despite how wet and cold the world was in that moment, these gals were truly an embodiment of polite joy in their duties as gatekeepers to this amazing place. It felt a genuine privilege to meet them. We moved on from that station and parked our car in the muddy field, and prepared ourselves with ponchos and umbrellas for our hike down into the woods. We made our way down through the puddles into the forest and found tents of habitation, tents of retail purpose, and it felt like festival season was just alive despite the conditions. I don’t know what food vendor it was that had the booth closest to the entrance to the woods, but their tents smelled divine. We moved on down towards the performance tent, tucked under the trees among the bravest campers I think I ever saw. The conditions were terrible for camping with temperatures well below what they should be for Memorial Day weekend in the Catskills and rain that continued to fall in buckets. But there were campsites! Tents set up with popup canopies and spots for hangouts within those woods. I couldn’t say enough that night how much I admired those folks. The energy within those trees was incredible.

I first discovered Peak in 2016 when i asked the Facebook masses for some new material to dig into. A friend and colleague, Cat Sisco, referred me to this new release from a band called Peak – a song called Barometric Pressure. I had been driving for Lyft at the time and was constantly adding to a playlist that I played while out spending hours driving. I added this song to my list and after many hours on the road became addicted to it. A couple years later, I was writing occasionally for the Jamwich magazine and I received an email from my editor. She knew I was working in midtown for a publisher and could easily check out a band having an album release show. She asked if I could go and review Peak. Of course I took the assignment and off I went. That was how I met Jeremy Hilliard and Johnny Young.

Jeremy Hilliard, the guitar and voice behind Peak, used to be in a band called Turbine. When I told my husband that evening that I was headed over to cover his show, he was excited his old colleague was off on another adventure. That night I showed up to their venue in the village and met up with Jeremy in the bar. We walked to the pizza spot across the street where Johnny and his wife, audio tech, and superhero Michelle Young were. The four of us sat down and rapped about influences, music venues, and the vibe of it all and in that moment, I knew I had met lifelong friends and amazing musicians. Their energy was infectious and sincere. These were folks who genuinely loved what they were doing. I was bummed that night that I didn’t hear ‘Barometric Pressure’, but I heard so many other songs that were exciting. I left a genuine Peak fan.

Later, Kito Bovenschulte of Particle and Josh Carter of Haley Jane and the Primates were added to the mix and the entire sound started to morph into an entirely new, amazing trip. They were the dance-funk vibe that the songs that Jeremy and Johnny had drafted were missing. Now the band was complete. And along the way, we were following. Fast forward to this past weekend…

Peak was in rare form on this particularly wet night. Not only were they back in front of an audience for the first time in well over a year, they were in truly ceremoniously Woodstock 1969 wet conditions in front of people who were feeding off their contagious energy like a festival game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Every single member of the band played with the fire of one thousand suns behind their instruments. They played a few tunes, including “Choppy Water” from their upcoming new album by the same name. Then, all of a sudden, there was “Barometric Pressure”! Yay! I might have hurt myself dancing in that moment.

Speaking of dancing, we were all in a tent in the woods with the stage. When we arrived, there were a handful of people under the tent leftover from the previous band’s set. As Peak began to move, these people started to come in from the rain. It was like beings moving towards a light in that moment and all of a sudden, our dancing numbers had doubled. Then they tripled. I am not sure what the numbers were when the set ended, but I know that with the conclusion of every song, there was more applause, whistles, and deliciously positive energy. At one point, the guys busted into the unmistakable intro to Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same”. Lots of bands tease an intro like that, and that’s pretty much what I expected it to be, but it didn’t stop. They played the whole song and they KILLED it. I remember turning to Josh’s wife in the crowd just to remark that he was absolutely knocking the bass parts right out the water. I have been listening to this song my whole life and I never heard someone cover it so flawlessly, but here were these guys destroying the song in the best possible way.

Our favorite song, “Path Paved With Roses”, was the second to last tune the guys did and it was so wonderfully amped up and dancy, I am sure egged on by the energy of the crowd that just darted around that makeshift, muddy dance floor. It was amazing and dream-like the way people circled around amongst one another. The encore was their song “When The Night Comes Calling You”, which after this weekend might very well take the top spot for me. I was dancing like I can’t remember ever doing. It was energy that flowed through bodies on the floor like electricity that had left its channels and was running wild. It didn’t feel possible to be in this magical place, feeling this incredible, despite everything that had happened to us all – everything that had happened to us as a species and a nation. We felt incredibly lucky. Peak brought us back to the wonderful world of live music. They were the bookends for us, to the pandemic, and normality.

And it was here, in Bethel, where positive energy emerges from the dirt.

I don’t know what will come of the world in the wake of COVID. I can say though that bands like Peak are there to help us navigate whatever it is. They are here to bring us slowly out of despair and isolation and back into the magic that is the energy of live music.  To have been in such a magical place with a band that understands how to not only capture that vibe but encapsulate and hand it to their audience felt like a delicious privilege that I don’t really yet know how to file in my heart the right way. All I know is that I feel so lucky to have been there, dancing my ass off, and feeling it all in that moment in that wonderful place. That night my body more or less gave out from it all, and I didn’t even care. I was somewhere magical with some of the most wonderful people.

The guys have a bunch of shows coming up this year, concluding with their album release show on October 22 in Brooklyn. If you are headed to that one, it’s my birthday so come find me and buy me a drink. Maybe some pizza. Either way, I look forward to dancing with you all as soon as possible. See you out there, friends…

PEAK Show Dates!

I am cautiously optimistic, but I am seeing show posts popping up. Earlier today, I caught myself scream a little when I saw Galactic will be at the Blue Note Jazz Fest in New York City this summer. Could it be true? Can we dance together again soon? So much of our life blood is the energy of live music. Can this be real?

Then here comes my regular “Peakin’ Beacon” email and low and behold, PEAK dates!

PEAK. TOUR. DATES.

The last show we saw before the world shut down was PEAK. Their livestreams were some of our favorite glimmers of normal. I am incredibly excited to be able to share these upcoming show dates with you!

5.30 Yasgur’s May Meltdown, Bethel NY (PEAK headlining Friday night!)

6.17 Stella Blues, New Haven, CT

7.10 Electric Haze, Worcester, MA

7.16 Snug’s Bar, New Paltz, NY

7.23 B.R.Y.A.C. Bridgeport, CT

8.26 Tellus 360, Lancaster, PA

8.27 Altered State Distellery Erie, PA

9.10 ALBUM RELEASE SHOW Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY

ALBUM RELEASE SHOW? Yes you read that right. There is a new record in the hopper, and it’s going to knock socks right off. More on that later…

I’m sure I will see your lovely faces at a few of these! See you out there, friends!

A Different Side of Peak’s Jeremy Hilliard with “Long Lives”

The pandemic was hard.

Things got really scary really fast for many of us. Most people were forced to stay home. I was not one of those people as my job is pretty paper-heavy, so I was still going to work a lot. My husband was still going to work every day, as he was a retail worker in construction. But while our work worlds spun madly on, the good stuff in our world was slowing. We all had to slow our roll and pull all our limbs back in the car. As we all know, clubs shuttered. Festivals and shows were cancelled. The music got real quiet.

Then one day, people started having shows in their homes and letting us all in. It started slow and then everyone was doing it. I don’t know what other people thought about this phenomenon, but I loved it. I loved the rawness of the material and the nosey person in me loved getting to look in people’s homes and at their artwork and furniture. I’m that person who absolutely WILL look in your window at night if your blinds are open as I drive by. Not because I’m pervy or anything, I really just want to see what colors you paint your walls and stuff. So this, for people like me, was magical. Music and interior design!

Anyway, one of my favorite living room peeks was New York’s Peak’s (see what I did there?) guitarist, front man, and mastermind Jeremy Hilliard. He would take requests, create lists, show us tiny cups, and sometimes his lovely wife or cat. It was an acoustic hour of all sorts of material and it always felt like just hanging with a friend for some tunes. Even though he never took my Simon and Garfunkel suggestions, I loved and looked forward to those living room shows. They were super fun and appealed to my not-so inner folkie. Fast forward to now, and Jeremy has taken some of the songs he’s had stored in the freezer for a few years, mixed them with some songs he’s been working on recently, and compiled a bunch of home demos he calls Long Lives. It’s a wonderfully rough and real batch of songs that play with folk, Americana, true blue country (you know, the good kind) and just pure emotional rock and roll, stripped down and laid bare.

Long Lives, according to Jeremy, is “10 demos of mine that seem to fit together.” He’s absolutely right. The songs all have a wonderfully rootsy Americana feel. It’s a great collection that gives you a sense of journey. You feel like you are along for the ride through states and cities across our country, seeing the landscapes and meeting the people. Jeremy’s guitar playing is absolutely wonderful in general, but this collection really highlights how broad his talents are.  While there are some tasty solos throughout, his playing simply lays a really comfortable and smooth set of tracks for every story he is telling. My favorite track is the collection opener, Shot in the Dark. It reminds me a bit of Arlo Guthrie in how the song is strung together and has a wonderful singalong quality with the really great backups. I could see this song as the credits roll after a good romance film. I also love Morning in Brooklyn. “Late night crackheads, early morning hipster joggers”…it paints a picture. The best line though is “BQE sunrise…every exit tells a story”. Blue Parkway is also a really gorgeous song with a bit of a soaring folkie feel. You can get the sensation of being within this tune, along for the ride.  The title track has a wonderful “froggie went a courtin” kind of feel, but with Jeremy’s amazing guitar work and much better lyrics, plus a really hopeful vibe. It’s a song I actually plan to teach my daughter to sing because it has such a wonderful message.

Jeremy recorded these tunes pretty bare bones, using Logic Pro x, one 58 mic, and two guitars. Also in the credits on vocal harmonies is his lovely wife, Beth. It’s a refreshingly raw recording. Everyone these days is very into perfectly polished records. Overproduction is a thing and in my opinion, it’s REALLY prevalent. It takes away so much of the personality of a song sometimes to make something sound so studio perfect, and I love the fact that this collection is nothing like that. So much of the folk music I love is pretty much under produced and that lends itself wonderfully to the overall feel of the songs. I would put this collection right there with some of the best of those records, in that you feel connected to the artist in the recording. Like you could be sitting right there with them, the way we used to before the pandemic closed down our intimate venues. I really, really enjoyed Long Lives and I would be happy to see it become a one man show for a few dates or even a full on release – as long as it stays rough and true. It was a genuine privilege to get to dig into this material.

But as always, don’t take my word for it. Head on over to Soundcloud and give the collection a listen for yourself, and let’s discuss!

Digging Hard on New ShwizZ – “Clock Tower”

This blog has been slowly finding its feet again after a year of lockdowns, cancelled festivals, closed venues, and postponed released. I am DELIGHTED beyond all comprehension to be bringing my followers and readers some exciting stuff and amazing new music. A Perfect Mess has always been set on bringing new music to your ears.

This pandemic has created a drought in new music and I think we are all feeling it’s emptiness in our souls. Just when I think I can’t take any more and might waste away completely, Nyack New York’s prog-fusion powerhouse ShwizZ is here to bathe us in hope and soaring guitar vibes with their new track, Clock Tower. It’s a killer tune and I can’t wait for everyone to get a listen so we can discuss!

Never one to shy away from the melding of meditative music and hard, heavy hitting rock, the guys in ShwizZ don’t disappoint with this new track. Guitarist Ryan Liatsis brings his gorgeously airy guitar work that goes from gentle and introspective to heavy, while still soaring, over the course of the song. It’s like being in a dream sequence as the song progresses through rooms of thought and emotion, changing ever so slightly and then completely before bringing you back. Drummer Andy Boxer is, as always, creating a perfectly melded series of beats that leads you through the highs and lows of the song with effortless precision and perfect emotion. The song also brings in the talents of bassist Scott Hogan who lays a deep, heavy and melodic groove, and William Burgaleta on amazing keys that are at times straight up otherworldly. All together, these gents are creating a deliciously epic trip that I seriously can’t stop listening to.

Not to stop at just an incredible song, ShwizZ has also graced us with a video that you can check out below: Give a watch and a listen and tell me what you think!

Po3tic Treachery (Paul Hollands) – Photo / Cover ArtDan Rappaport – Video Production / Photo EditingNatasha DiMarco – Production AssistantReleased by Color Red Records

Produced, Recorded & Mixed by ShwizZ at Call Hollow StudiosMastered at Csharp Studios

I am constantly being wowed by these guys. I am hoping hard for more music from Shwizz ASAP, as I know they have some live shows in the hopper! You can check them out at the following later this year:

August 14 – Yasgur Road Reunion

October 1 – Opple Topple Music Festival 

October 2 – Flyday Music Festival

https://flydaymusicfestival.com/

Socially Distanced With the Slackers in May!

Hey friends, how are you all doing out there in La La Land? Are you ok? Are you getting enough sunshine? Have you been drinking enough water? It’s important, you know, that water. It keeps all your cells happy. This pandemic has been really hard on so many people. We are social creatures and being away from our people has been ridiculously difficult. One of the things missed most has been live music. It’s been a year since I saw my last live show. Since then I have been known to cry from the crowd reaction on a live album. I wish I was kidding.

In the last month or so, some show announcements have been creeping out. Bands are willingly traveling to places like Florida and Texas that have flung open their doors like COVID never existed and want everyone to come hang. Now I am not saying that’s a terrible idea, but really? I understand you have a living to make, but are the lives of your fans worth that guarantee? Is it too soon? I don’t know, guys. I just don’t know what to think about the bands doing this.

This is why I was DELIGHTED though to see a few bands taking it upon themselves to book their own shows where they control the space and they can keep things safe. One of those is The Slackers.

The greatest band in the land, my happy music. Some of the nicest guys out there doing this ska thing for 30 years. When it comes to the ins and outs of tours and making your living, I trust the guys that have been doing it year after year all over the US and Europe for three decades. They are doing some small, very limited ticket parties with an established social distancing plan and a BYOB theme.  Their first is coming up on May 7th and 8th in Jackson, NJ. All COVID restrictions will be followed. I don’t know about you guys, but a BYOB party with the Slackers sounds like salve for my soul.

If you are interested, please send a shout to slackermusic1991@gmail.com for ticket info. You can pay via PayPal or Venmo and tables are available for up to 6 guests. There is a $50 minimum donation per person. Check out the flyer for more info, and keep it here for updates!

The State of Live Music in a Pandemic – From The Minds of Musicians

Six months ago, the world stopped.

One minute we were dancing in the crowds in a sweaty club, and the next minute we were home on the couch, trying to make sourdough bread. We saw it coming here in America but we, in our arrogance and false sense of security, didn’t understand just how hard it would hit. It knocked us squarely on our ass. Pure confusion followed. We remained in our homes, locked away from everything we knew up to that point. Some of us, like my family, continued to work. I worked from home for a couple months and then was back in my office. It’s been scary, but I am profoundly thankful. My husband’s day job was considered essential so he continued to go to work every day without break (except for a two week quarantine) in the public. Most requests for blogs and freelance album review work dried up. My husband’s band stopped abruptly. All bands we knew did. Tours were cancelled. Venues shut their doors. Festivals were cancelled. An entire industry slammed to a grinding halt. The ripples are still being felt now, so many months later. 

It’s been an enormous struggle for so many. Not just musicians but crew members, recording staff, production staff, media, food service, security, etc etc etc have felt their world’s simply stop. It’s been unprecedented in its damage and its reach. The pandemic showed no mercy and no preference and crumpled long standing partnerships and plans. The music world will probably never be the same. Even as states like my home in New Jersey are cautiously green lighting the reopening of indoor dining and music venues at a 25% capacity, artists and fans alike are still weary. It matters little to those who miss live music if they have seen the ravaging effects of what COVID-19 can do. Other places like New York have temporarily halted the ability to hold live events for profit in an effort to keep the spread of the virus at bay by preventing the temptation for people to take that risk. Other states are allowing large gatherings. Some states are allowing drive-in theater like shows where fans stay in or around their cars. Things are changing and even maybe slowly adapting, but no one has any idea where it will lead.

In terms of adapting, some artists have found a new source of income and material online. 

Many artists decided this was as good a time as any to share their skills and took on virtual students for lessons. It’s nice to have the opportunity to learn some techniques from people you admire who would not have otherwise had as much time to devote to such a thing, and people are willing to pay for it. There have been some large scale presentations as well. We watched The Dropkick Murphys do their annual live St Patrick’s day show virtually and then watched them play live to an empty Red Sox stadium for charity. I don’t think I ever enjoyed a couch tour scenario anywhere near as much as I enjoyed those two show. In the months that followed, we saw other bands taking a page from their book.

Bands like The Slackers have taken to the internet as individuals as well as a band to bring their live show into anyone’s living room who is willing to watch. Bands like Twiddle and Goose have been playing with the concept of large scale living room couch tours. Some artists charge a fee. Some simply ask for donations be made. Online “busking” took on a whole new life when the world shut down. New Jersey’s own Catherine Sisco saw the need for a platform for these artists to find a larger audience online and Busking Down The House was born. BDTH created a space for the fan to meet the music safely in their homes, live every day. It created a daily virtual showplace for a musician to set up from home and be able to play whatever they wanted for a built in audience. The group grew quickly and at present boasts a viewership in the tens of thousands with shows every single day. Artists like Tim Palmieri from Kung Fu are there with solo shows regularly. The way it works is simple. Using the Facebook group as a platform, the viewer can tune in and enjoy the show for free or toss a donation of any size. The artist’s Venmo or Paypal is displayed. There is a schedule posted regularly and the group is always taking submissions.

You can check out Busking Down The House on FB at https://www.facebook.com/BUSKINGDOWNTHEHOUSE

Do you roll with the change? Music as an industry has always evolved. Things are very different now than they were 50 years ago in terms of everything from the way music creates profit to the way it’s consumed to the manner in which intellectual property is trademarked. Things never stay the same, but I don’t know that, as an industry, there was ever such an abrupt shake up from every possible corner. So what does it mean going forward? What happens now? Where do we stand today?  I can opine on this topic all day and if you ask anyone who has shared a cocktail with me over the last six months, you know I will. However, I decided to ask some folks who call music their home what they thought of the state of things now. 

Do you anticipate a rapid return? 

Travis – Hub City Stompers:

 I certainly WISH for a rapid return, but I do not anticipate one.  Any return to live music needs to be commensurate and accordant with the safety of attendees and performers.

I’m fiending like a rockless crackhead to play shows again, but I would never risk anyone’s health just to satisfy my own personal urge to play.  People need to hold shit down, ride this out, and do what they gotta do so life can get back to normal all the quicker/sooner.

Ara Babajian – The Slackers:

I don’t anticipate a rapid return. I think everything will likely be some combination of live streaming and private parties, at least for bands at our level. I think bands should definitely charge/attempt virtual tours. 

Eric Abbey- Abbey Productions, Jay Navarro & the Traitors, Detriot Riddim Crew:

I do not think a return will be rapid. As someone who produces shows and plays them, I do not want to risk band mates exposure, but also put people who come to shows at risk. 

Jenny Whiskey – Hub City Stompers, Rudeboy George

Well…I may be biased since my source of income is not music. I have a day job that enables me to work from home , and admittedly am very lucky in that regard. As far as shows go, I don’t anticipate all of the dank dark smelly venues we are accustomed to playing  will be open for shows any time soon. And it fucking sucks because those places survive on shows and DJ nights. Outdoor gigs are going to be the next step I think. I love virtual fests and it’s been tiding us over but I think people are getting antsy in the pantsy to see real live humans playing music. 

Will Hanza – Escaper:

For those that live for live music… we all have to find a way to be safe and respect this virus. It’s no joke. But we adapt. Evolve. Do the best we can. And for those moments we can get that live music in, it’s all the more special these days.

Ryan Brice – Your Mom’s Hot:

I think that a good number of people will be pushing for a rapid return, but I anticipate a more cautious approach.  I have tickets for the Joan Jett/Poison/Def Leppard/Motley Crue show in August (it was rescheduled for July 2021) and even if we were farther along in our reopening phase, I would still be nervous about the big crowds.  I’m not sure that’s an opinion shared by a lot of people.

Do you feel better “busking” online from home? 

Travis – Hub City Stompers: 

At the moment I’m fine with putting together “virtual” performances and videos.  And not even for money, necessarily, but just putting stuff out there so people have something from you to enjoy and so that you’re not sitting on your ass without creating and/or performing. HCS doesn’t plan to charge for any of the virtual performances we’ll be putting out in the near future (unless it’s going to a charity of some sort).

But I certainly don’t take umbrage with any other band doing so.  If bands that are typically dependent on income from live performances are hurting right now then that’s one way they can try to minimize the damage.  And if their fans want to pay for the band’s performances then so be it.

Eric Abbey- Abbey Productions, Jay Navarro & the Traitors, Detroit Riddim Crew:

Busking Online will not work for small local acts. The larger touring artists yes, this is a good plan. For smaller local bands this is crushing. 

Jenny Whiskey – Hub City Stompers, Rudeboy George:

I think scenes should take a lot of cues from the drag and burlesque communities. They rely almost solely on tips for their income and I am continually impressed with how they’ve come together to create space for their craft even during this shitshow. They’ve utilized platforms like Twitch and Instagram Live for weekly showcases, set up virtual tipping mediums and organized drive up events and that seem to be keeping them afloat. Despite the fact that those performers generally work on their own as opposed to a band of 6-7 ska nerds, I think we can take something from that and make it our own. 

Will Hanza – Escaper:

I have to admit that at first, I only begrudgingly got into the live streams. Before all this, I wasn’t trying to be guitar-on-the-couch internet hero, I was trying to play live shows as often as possible. When that became, well, impossible, seemed like the streams were the way to go. And for awhile, it was actually pretty successful. I did some well attended and received streams with Busking Down the House, Woodstock Radio, Freaks Action Network and some just on my own page. It felt good to connect with people. However… I have to be honest, it isn’t the same as feeling real time energy interaction with an audience that’s in the room with you. I am not trying to sound complain-y. I know so many people out there are struggling and my concerns are tiny in comparison. That said. I am trying to find ways to bring live, in-person music in a safe way. When I play, I want to be a conduit for the bigger energy that flows through me, through the music, and through all of us. Being in the present moment. Not playing at people, but with… We all do it together in a fantastic energy feedback loop.

Ryan Brice – Your Mom’s Hot:

I haven’t personally been busking, but something like that would be way out of character for me.  I don’t even like to play shows that require us to sell tickets – I feel like a pompous ass asking my friends and family to pay to come see me perform.  I’m not a musician to make money or to supplement my income – I play cover songs in a bar to have fun and get out; I don’t depend on the money I make from those gigs to pay bills or survive.  

I had not heard of the “virtual tour” thing, but at first thought I find it laughable.  Put in the album and listen, or go on YouTube and watch a live video.  At second thought, however, I am sure there’s a sizable subset of people who would “attend,” either as a way to support their favorite artists (who may be struggling as well and looking for a way to stay afloat) or just to feel connected to the outside music world again.  Like the busking thing – It’s not my cup of tea, but I’m not against the idea.

How do you think a struggling American populous is handling their lack of live music (and potentially income that would have previously paid for it)?

Travis – Hub City Stompers:

I’m sure they’re fiending to attend shows just as badly as bands are fiending to play them.  And I’m sure they are adjusting and appreciating whatever means of performance bands can put out and provide.

All I can say is that I sure as hell hope that when all this is over and shows can resume that people don’t so readily go back to taking shows for granted and sitting on their asses at home when they have the opportunity to go out and see shows

Ara Babajian – The Slackers:

I think the struggling American populace is handling their lack of live music by going out and toppling Confederate statues, which I wholeheartedly encourage.

Eric Abbey- Abbey Productions, Jay Navarro & the Traitors, Detroit Riddim Crew:

I can’t even comment about the American populous right now as I do not understand anyone risking their lives and others just because they do not want to wear a mask.  Unfortunately, this is a huge wake up call for a a lot of people playing music and it sucks.  I hope that we can build something new out of this.

Jenny Whiskey – Hub City Stompers, Rudeboy George:

I know a lot of folks are struggling financially right now, not just performers , but many others. And spending money on events is t exactly in their budget to begin with. So perhaps utilizing these virtual shows and outdoor spaces might make for an affordable means for folks to enjoy it without going broke. I suppose we will have to see what happens. Honestly I think everyone’s getting a little stir crazy, and could use some escapism to forget for a second that we’re in an actual horror movie right now, and it’s gonna take some time for us, to get back to rubbing up against each other in a sweaty basement.

Will Hanza – Escaper:

As the weather warmed the idea of safe outdoor events became a reality. Escaper just did two events (a live stream at Mountain Sky in PA with 10 socially distanced guests, as well as a private outdoor party that had minimal people and followed safety guidelines). On July 17th we played an outdoor patio show at Orlando’s Bar in Burlington, VT. Seated, 50 person capacity, again following safety guidelines.This is where we are at. Outdoor, safety-following shows. This includes the drive-ins that have been popping up. I have attended one and hope to get the band to do some soon.

Ryan Brice – Your Mom’s Hot:

I think people are starting to go stir crazy and are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.  I had practice with my band for the first time in 3 months last week and it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  Art (especially music) brings us together and soothes our collective savage beast.  Case in point, look how happy everybody’s Facebook posts were the weekend when Hamilton was released.  We had something exciting to engage about that wasn’t all the crap going on in the world.  I hope live music returns quickly and safely and fills the void that so many people are feeling.

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Personally, I miss all of you out on the floor. The last show we saw before the whole world came down was our friends in New York’s Peak. They have been doing some online work through all of this as well, including the release of a few virtual performances, some rebroadcasts with commentary from the band, and singer/guitarist Jeremy Hilliard did a series of acoustic shows from his living room with themes, requests and dedications. As much as we loved the virtual content we got from one of our favorites in the scene, we look forward to the sweaty dancing energy of a live show that simply cannot be replicated in the living room. I don’t know what this pandemic world will bring us in the next few months, but I know I miss stuff. I miss dancing and not caring how bad I was at it because the energy from the band was incredible. I miss dirty venue bathroom selfies. I miss all you guys.

Special thanks to my contributors!

The NPC’s Are Shining a Bright Light in Dark Times with Their Version of “Superman”

Times have been dark and confusing for a while. COVID-19 has ransacked life as we know it and those of us in various music communities feel it as hard as anyone. Venues are shuttered. Tours are cancelled. Studios are closed. Musicians, producers, crew, photographers and journalists, fans and everyone who calls “music” home are stuck secluded from everything we know about the sanity and insanity that was our lives. Things have been lonely and quiet and frankly very depressing.

Sometime at the beginning of the pandemic shut down, the band Goldfinger re-recorded a few of these more recognizable songs from their homes. They put them out as videos and I shared most of them with glee as they were a wonderful piece of nostalgia for my cranky old Gen-X ass, but they were also a glimpse of the normal that we so desperately needed. They showed that people were ok at home and still wanting to make music. People we knew. People we loved. I admit I also had a total voyeur thing with seeing people’s homes, but it was a comfort to see that we were ok. Lots of bands started putting out videos like this around that time. Musicians from home still making music. It was hope!

Time has dragged on and there have been fewer and fewer of these types of videos popping up. Some folks have gone back to work at their day jobs. Some people have started to slowly venture back out into the world like mole people in the bright sun as things slowly reopened. We are still so far from normal though. There are still no tours, still only very small shows, if any, in most cities. Some venues have closed for good. Most places are not allowing large gatherings and those that do are questionably safe as the pandemic still rages on through America. I miss shows and live music because that is where my friends are. It’s where my blog is. It’s where I feel most alive. I like to say I don’t much like people but the truth is that I like my music people and I miss the ever loving shit out of them.

So what do we do now?

I can’t speak for many these days, but I can say that The NPC’s had a great idea and it’s one of the most invigorating things I have had the pleasure of seeing since this madness took over our world. You might not know who the NPC’s are. You can hop on over to their Facebook page and give them a look at https://www.facebook.com/thenpcsmusic and see their origins. What began with a desire to put together a cover song has turned into a movement to keep music alive. To put it simply, it’s a collective of musicians who work together from afar to do random covers. Artists who might not be in the same time zone as one another but who love the idea of collaborating on songs they love. In times like these when we can’t just meet up at our local practice spot and put something together, this group has tapped into something incredible. Several of my friends from the punk and ska world have been there for a bit. I had no idea what was brewing over there.

Now I am not shy about telling the world I am almost 42 years old. It might explain some of my tastes. It’s also going to make it make a little more sense when I tell you that when the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater came out, I played it all freaking day. We all did. We would play it in groups. We would play it alone. We would sit on the phone with friends and play it. The soundtrack was our soundtrack in the rest of our lives so that just made it better. When they announced that it was coming back, we were all singing along already. The NPC was no different and when Goldfinger’s Superman was mentioned, it didn’t take long for 56 musicians to want to be involved. Yes, 56 musicians. Horn players alone make up 25 of them. They come from all over the country. They are in their kitchens, basements, home studios, backyards, skateparks, their lives. Try not to feel the joy. Try to ignore the smile you will get watching and listening. I dare you…

It hit the interwebs on Friday and everyone, including Goldfinger themselves, have been sharing it like crazy and feeling the warmth of love, ska, skateboarding, and nostalgia flow through them. I am incredibly proud to promote it here on A Perfect Mess. I’m proud to call many of the participants my friends and the NPC a glimmer of hope in a dark world to remind us how sunny the world actually is.

So watch, listen, and feel the goodness…

Many thanks to all who took part!

Two Exciting Preview Tracks from Shwizz! New Album “Big Things” Out 6/26

How are we all hanging in our quarantines and shut-downs? Is everyone ok? I know the solitude and confusion has been rough on a lot of us, and I am hoping everyone is holding up out there. The one thing that is getting me through these rough times has been the sprinklings of new music I have been getting to write about, pushed along by the fact that you all want to read about it and hear about more – so thank you! I know we are far apart these days, but we will get each other through this. Music is life, after all.

I have said it before and I will say it again – reviewing singles is becoming my new favorite thing. It’s like wine tasting. You get just a sip of something you had no idea you wanted, and now you cannot wait to bring home that whole bottle. It’s even more delicious when you know you will have to wait for more because the album is not out for another month or so. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Something like that – ANYWAY – the guys in Shwizz have released an epic teaser to their upcoming album, Big Things, with two early released tracks. Shwizz is an incredible band comprised of two members – Ryan Liatsis on guitar, keys, and vocals, and Andy Boxer on drums and vocals. You might remember we did a review of their last record, Shwizz II not that long ago and talked a lot about what incredible players and writers these guys are. Well, guess what? They are back with more of that goodness for you with these two tracks! 

I have to admit, I have been devouring these songs amidst all the chaos of the pandemic and our lockdown. I think we can all use something to look forward to these strange days, and hearing these songs is going to be that thing for you. I already cannot wait for the full album to be released, and I think you will find that you agree. This is just a sampling, and the two songs are so diverse from one another that I cannot wait to see what the rest of the record has in store for us.

The first of the two songs is called Unnamed King. It’s a heavy as hell, hard hitting song that the band did with Consider The Source bassist, John Ferrara. Unsurprisingly, his bass lines in this song are epic. The whole song from start to finish is simply fantastic and proves what a force Shwizz is in their writing styles. The drums hit with perfect precision and incredible force. Boxer takes you through the rises and falls in the track with incredible creativity. The guitar Liatsis lays down is soaring and heavy while still being so smart and intricate. Ferrara’s bass work in the beginning is such a different intensity than at the end of the song. The writing is brilliant in that it’s this perfect mayhem of precision and power. I asked Shwizz drum master Andy Boxer where this song came from: 

“I wrote the song 4-5 years ago after seeing Consider the Source. I laid down the foundation and Ryan blasted it to another level.” That’s an understatement! Dive into this song and let it take you on a journey!

The second song took me by surprise. It’s called Your Call Is Very Important To Us and if you think it sounds familiar, you are probably right. “It’s inspired by hold music. Like, literally.” says Boxer when asked what prompted them to write the song. When you hear it, you will know right away. It’s an amazing song in that, for a moment, it sounds like every horrible hold experience you ever had. That typical tune. You know the one. Gentle and calming to assist your mood while you wait for someone to take your concerns. Then it breaks into these absolutely gorgeous guitar solos that really highlight what an incredible player Liatsis is. The tempo of the song picks up, then down, taking you up and around on a roller-coaster ride. There are these great drum hits and combinations that set the pace and changes. The whole track intensifies at the ¾ mark, taking you higher and higher with ferocity from the dance between drums and guitar. Then the song comes back down around to that familiar tune and gently ends. I was just floored by the whole thing. I mean, who else can take hold music and make it into a crazy good, intricate song? No one but Shwizz, and that’s why this band is amazing.

That’s why I cannot wait for this album next month. The upcoming album, Big Things, will be available June 26th and you can find out more by heading to the band’s website, https://www.shwizz.com

Check out these tracks on Spotify right now!

Digging Hard on a New Track from Inner Sounds with Agustina Giovio – “The One”

Quarantine is weird, man.

My blogs don’t flow like they once did. Music just isn’t feeling all that exciting from the confines of my couch. I know I am battling many of the same internal demons that so many of you are while being isolated. I have been badly in need of something delicious to reignite me. And then something fell into my lap about a week ago when a friend tossed me an email…

I love reviewing singles. It’s like tasting wine that you can’t yet buy a full bottle of. I get these small tastes of new sounds and it creates a craving for something I didn’t yet know I even wanted. That is how it was hearing this fantastic new track from Inner Sounds, featuring Agustina Giovo called “The One”. Before last week, this was a project that was nowhere on my radar. Today, I am sitting here absolutely chomping at the bit for more from these folks. This track is a perfect blending of throwback feel and new flavor. It’s fresh and creative while still pulling bits of familiar styles that, despite sounding like something you might know, sound brand new. It’s been a while since I heard something that felt this exciting, but I am incredibly intrigued. So here we go!

Inner Sounds is comprised of Chris Aguayo and Zac Carson. They put our their debut record, a psych-rock and electronic blend, back in January 2019 with a follow up track in May of last year. Carson released his own album, “Between Two Worlds”, in 2018. The two developed the music portion of the track “The One” at their studio in Jersey City, NJ. They then welcomed the gorgeous vocal talents of Uruguayan singer/songwriter Agustina Giovio to inject her incredible abilities into the song. Giovio came to to the states by herself as a teen and is known as an incredible songwriter and vocal talent, having been featured on MTV, Telemundo, and others. Her voice is hypnotic and magical, but don’t take my word for it…

The song is sung as a beautiful duet between Aguayo and Giovio that blends styles and feels and creates an incredible vibe that permeates every part of your soul. This song struck me somewhere deep. It’s emotional and those soulful vocals absolutely soar. Giovio is an extraordinary vocalist. The beat of the song is steady like a heartbeat that runs through the track with the energy of a power line. Lyrically, it tugs your heart with a deep and resonating desperation that you can just about taste – and you want to. You will feel it and want to know the story. Vocally it’s laid out in such a way that by the second listen, you want so badly to be singing along whether or not you know the words. I was! I sincerely want so much more from this trio. This song made me feel so many things – deep.

It’s exciting!

Some bits and pieces on this track – this was Aguayo’s first time rapping on a released track. He also produced and mixed the song, which was co-produced by Carson and Giovio. The song was mastered by Grammy winner Mark Christensen who has worked with some small time folks…you know, The Killers, Tony Braxton, OK Go. So obviously it’s fantastic. The song was completed in February 2020 before this Covid-19 madness took us over and sent us inside. It’s been rough on musicians and performers, especially those with music just waiting to be heard. I am thrilled that they went ahead and put this gem out there for everyone to enjoy. This is a song that needs to be heard. According to the song’s bio, there is another pending Inner Sounds release out there. I genuinely can’t wait!

The song was released on April 21 and you can actually check out a really cool video to accompany it right here on the Inner Sounds Facebook page:

Inner Sounds & Agustina Giovio "The One" (Official Lyric Video)

"The One"By Inner Sounds & Agustina GiovioMusic & lyrics by Chris Aguayo, Zac Carson, & Agustina GiovioProduced by Chris Aguayo, Zac Carson, & Agustina GiovioMixed by Chris Aguayo at Inner Sounds Music Studio in Jersey City, NJMastered by Mark Christensen at Engine Room Audio NYC (50 Cent, OK Go, The Killers, 98 Degrees, Boyz II Men, Tony Braxton, Trey Songz)On recording:Agustina Giovio – lead vocalsChris Aguayo – vocals/guitar/synthZac Carson – bass/keyboardLyric video by mi_palashSpotify/Apple Music artwork by Tom SchmittSpecial Thanks to News 12, WFMZ, Underground Music Collective, Zack Seif, Museboat Live Channel, and Influence Music Hall for press support & pre-release partieshttps://undergroundmusiccollective.com/2020/04/21/the-quinns-daily-spinn-tuesday-april-21/

Posted by Inner Sounds on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Check it out and let me know what you think! Absolutely follow that Facebook page!

You can check out whats going on with Inner Sounds and Agustina Giovo on Instagram at

@innersoundsband

@augustinasounds

Or check out www.chrisaguayo.com for more!

See you out there as soon as it’s safe, friends! Stay inside, save trees, love bees…stay healthy!