I first met Jeremy Hilliard and Johnny Young from PEAK four years ago in New York City. I was working for a music publisher in midtown at the time and writing here and there for this blog as well as The Jamwich – who asked me to cover an album release show. My job was boring as all get out (how many times can I type the name of that song into the computer in 8 hours…) but this was the reason I wanted to work in the city in the first place – to experience live music as much as possible, even if it was not necessarily job related. Our corner of New Jersey is lovely, but live music venues are not exactly dotting the map there. Naturally, I was delighted. Of course I would cover this show for this Psychedelic Indie Funk band called PEAK and their record Electric Bouquet.
I got the opportunity to meet Jeremy, Johnny, and his wife Michelle that night and formulate a wonderful fanship/friendship that has followed PEAK over the last few years. Since that night, the band has added bassist Josh Carter, formerly of Haley Jane and the Primates, and Kito Bovenschulte, formerly and sometimes presently of Particle. The combination of these two gents and the already catchy and addictive songwriting that existed in PEAK has been nothing short of explosive. The live shows over the last several years have become a haven of joy for my husband and I and we have traveled all over just to have our own private dance parties with the crowd at a PEAK show. That profile picture of mine on the APM page on FB? That’s me dancing like a crazy thing at a PEAK show. We have come to know and love the songs they wrote as they played them live and were honestly chomping at the bit for this new album to drop. And drop it did, like a big, fat piñata of awesome.
The record, Choppy Water, is a deliciously danceable journey through thoughtful inner monologues, set to jamming and often rocking music. It was recorded deep within the pandemic at Horizon Sound Studios in Brooklyn and engineered by Johnny and Michelle Young. The finished product was mixed by Jason “Jocko” Randall (Turkuaz/Jimkata/Dopapod) at Moresound Studios in Syracuse, NY. It’s such a different album than the last record and brings forth so much flavor from the depths of what could have been a depletion of creativity, Instead, this masterpiece is here to bring us back the hope that comes from a packed dance floor, enormous smiles, and incredible players.
The band quite smartly kicks the doors open with their song When The Night Comes Calling You. It has a deep groove that is more than a foot tapping sensation. It’s a climbing, hip shaking, why-would-you-possibly-stand-still kind of groove. Kito’s stellar drumming is all over this track, dragging it around the floor with every shaking body in the crown. Layered through those beats is Josh’s bass lines which are deep and heavy and just add to that hip shake. Johnny has an expertly light touch to his keys sound in this song but it carried through the entire tune in a dance with Jeremy’s guitar work that creates a vocal all its own. Add that to the actual vocal which is catchy as hell and helps to build with everyone through to the top of the chorus. It’s a masterpiece, this song.
The immediate next track, Path Paved with Roses, has been a favorite of mine through many, many live shows. I was so excited to hear it as a studio track and PEAK didn’t disappoint me in the least. A fun, foot-tapping vibe through from start to finish colored with Johnny’s throwback key sound and singable vocals by he and Jeremy create another really fun experience for your ears. This song makes you want to dance. I have literally hurt myself dancing to this song! The guitar solo three quarters through, playing over the stomping drums and steady bass takes the song to the end, and then I get sad that it’s over.
The title track, Choppy Water, has become my favorite driving song. It has a vibe somewhere between the bass groove and fills that just kill, steady, precise drumming, and those lovely vocals that kind takes the mind off somewhere else. It’s a mellower feel after the first two tracks, but it’s welcome, dreamy, and comforting especially carried by the keys and in its layout and overall feel. Your foot is still tapping though. PEAK puts together a really great song every time they sit down to do it and if you think you like it in the studio, just wait until you hear them live. The fourth track, It Ain’t Over til the Credits Roll, is a fantastic uptick in temo, spirit, and overall feel. Johnny takes lead vocals here, absolutely destroys on keys, and there is a killer guitar solo by Jeremy as well. Another great mention is the last track, Day the World Was Born. It has a great Americana feel and different kind of vibe from much of the rest of the album, but that versatility as players and writers is what separates the guys in PEAK from other musicians in this scene.
Every member of this band is a powerhouse of ability in their own right. They are sincerely four of the most talented players I have ever had the opportunity to see play live and that is not me blowing smoke at anyone. I genuinely think they are some of the most purely talented people out there now, in addition to being some of the hardest working. They are also a collection of wonderful human beings, truly appreciative of a crowd having a great time. I have seen PEAK everywhere from a tiny bar in Sparta, NJ to the hugeness of Brooklyn Bowl to freezing and pouring down rain in a field at Yasgurs Farm. No matter where it is, they are giving spectators a fantastic show full of energy, sincerity, insane ability, and a metric shit ton of fun.
Don’t take my word for it – come out Friday October 22 to the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn and see for yourself when the band has their official album release show for Choppy Water. They will be supported by friends in Waiting on Mongo from Asbury Park and Trailheads all the way from Pittsburgh. PEAK should hit the stage by 9pm. You can head over to bit.ly/peakkfbk to get your tickets ($15) and I cannot recommend highly enough that you do. It’s a fantastic live show that is not to be missed. I’ll be there, and surprise! It’s my birthday! Come out and hang out and shake what you were given with some great people and amazing music. In the meantime, PEAK’s album Choppy Water is streaming everywhere and you should be devouring it! You can also buy CD’s at the show and a limited amount of posters NYC-based Artist Conor Brewster, seen below.
SWEETWATER 420 FESTIVAL RETURNS TO ATLANTA’S CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK APRIL 29-MAY 1, 2022 LINEUP ANNOUNCED WITH NEWLY ADDED 420 PRE-PARTY CONCERT ‘Tier 1’ 3-Day General Admission & VIP Tickets on sale October 8 at 10 AM at SweetWater420Fest.com
SweetWater Brewery Company and Happy Ending Productions Present the return of SweetWater 420 Fest from April 29 through May 1 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Festival announces the full 2022 lineup, including headliners Oysterhead, Trey Anastasio Band (2 sets), and The String Cheese Incident (2 sets).
Additional artists include Umphrey’s McGee (2 sets), Snoop Dogg, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (2 sets), Goose, Dirty Heads, Snarky Puppy, JJ Grey & Mofro, Lotus, Turkuaz with Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew: Remain in Light, Spafford, Big Something, Too Many Zooz, The Movement, Doom Flamingo + Queen is Doomed (2 sets), Badfish, Boombox Feat. Backbeat Brass, Town Mountain, The Nth Power Feat. Jennifer Hartswick, Tropidelic, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, Karina Rykman, Kitchen Dwellers, Neighbor, DENM, Little Stranger, Kanika Moore & The Psycodelics, Hedonistas, Butcher Brown, Sexbruise?, Certainly So, Joslyn & The Sweet Compression, KrisB’s Midnight Railroad, Bird Dog Jubilee, The 4 Korners, The Stews, Pressing Strings, The Broadcast, and the Taylor Scott Band.
NEW in 2022, SweetWater 420 Fest is thrilled to announce the first kick-off pre-party concert on Thursday, April 28 at 12 PM in Centennial Olympic Park featuring two sets from headliner The String Cheese Incident supported by moe., Oteil & Friends, and Empire Strikes Brass.
Founded 18 years ago, SweetWater 420 Fest continues to deliver an eclectic musical lineup, singular in its ability to bring some of the most prominent jam band names in the industry alongside cutting-edge acts and some of the most revered artists on our playlists.
Returning experiences include three stages, heady concoctions from SweetWater Brewery featuring handcrafted signature drinks, cocktails and craft beers served throughout the festival and at the festival favorite ‘SweetWater Experience Tent.’
Additional features include a local craft & artist market, an expanded food court with a variety of food trucks, the Planet 420 environmental and non-profit village, our 5k Road Race with everyone’s favorite beer at the finish line, and the newly added Thursday pre-party concert in the park with general admission (GA) and VIP upgraded experience purchase options.
Furthermore, the Peachtree Road Race qualifier 420 Fest 5K returns April 30. 5K/Fest combo packages available. Participants can register at sweetwater420fest.com/420-fest-5k.
“We are more than excited to celebrate not only the return of live music but the return of SweetWater 420 Fest and our festival community to Centennial Olympic Park in 2022! Furthermore, to add to the excitement, and for the first time in our festival history, we are announcing our full festival lineup in October with tickets on-sale on the 8th!” says President of Happy Ending Productions, Jennifer Bensch. “Plus! We added an extra day of music on Thursday with a kick-off pre-party in the park!”
SweetWater 420 Festival tickets are on sale October 8 at 10am. Tier one three-day GA tickets start at $118, three-day Big Fish VIP at $350, the newly added three-day GA Kush at $198, and premium Riff VIP passes including a range of exclusive amenities.
Plus! Purchase your 420 Fest pre-party ticket for Thursday, April 28, for an additional fee when you purchase your three-day tickets.
The SweetWater 420 Festival is produced by Happy Ending Productions, offering promotion, production, event operations, and logistics management. Happy Ending Productions’ client list includes Festivals: Camp Bisco, Counterpoint, Bonnaroo, Hookahville, along with tour support services for Phish, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and more.
About SweetWater 420 Festival
SweetWater 420 Fest returns to Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, April 29-May 1, 2022 with three stages. Founded 18 years ago, SweetWater 420 Fest has delivered an eclectic musical lineup, singular in its ability to bring some of the most prominent jam band names in the industry alongside cutting-edge acts, varied genres, and some of the most revered artists of our time. Festival experiences include three stages, handcrafted signature drinks, cocktails and craft beers by SweetWater Brewery Co.’s served throughout the festival and at festival favorite ‘SweetWater Experience Tent,’ local craft & artist market, expanded food court and a food truck village, Planet 420 environmental and non-profit village, and a peachtree qualifying 5K Road Race. For information, including lineups, event news, and the latest updates, please visit sweetwater420fest.com and facebook.com/420fest and follow on Instagram and Twitter at @420Fest.
About SweetWater Brewing Co.
SweetWater Brewing Company is an Atlanta-based craft brewery living by the motto “Don’t Float the Mainstream!” In 2020, SweetWater was acquired by Aphria Inc., now Tilray (TSX: TLRY and Nasdaq: TLRY), a leading global cannabis company inspiring and empowering the worldwide community to live their very best life. SweetWater Brewing Co. celebrated 24 years of heady brews in 2021 and is the 11th largest craft brewery in the nation, according to the Brewers Association. The award-winning lineup of year-round beers includes 420 Extra Pale Ale, H.A.Z.Y. IPA, G13 IPA, High Light, 420 Imperial IPA, Golden Isles Hard Tea and SweetWater Oasis Premium Hard Seltzer. Additionally, seasonal releases offer palate pleasing variety, along with an experimental, one-time-only Dank Tank series, 420 Strain Series, innovative Non-Dairy Almond Milk Stout and progressive barrel aged styles in The Woodlands Project series.
SweetWater is passionate about protecting natural resources and habitats and is recognized for its contributions to environmental initiatives throughout its distribution footprint. Supporting the conservation of some of the nation’s most threatened rivers, streams and coastlines is a cause near and dear to the brewery, as clean water is also vital to the creation of their tasty brews.
Visit SweetWater Brewery – located at 195 Ottley Drive in the heart of Atlanta – for tours of the main brewery, and pints and bites in the newly renovated taproom and restaurant. For more information about SweetWater Brewing Company and brewery hours, please visit sweetwaterbrew.com. Follow SweetWater Brewing Company on Twitter/Instagram @sweetwaterbrew, and become a fan at facebook.com/sweetwaterbrew and facebook.com/SweetWater-in-Colorado
So first off, my apologies for a ridiculously slooooooow blog season. It’s not for my lack of wanting to resume some semblance of normal amid the pandemic. I have been vaccinated (thrice, in fact!), masked up, gone out, gone to shows, listened to some RIDICULOUSLY good new music. I have had plenty of material, but my health took a strange turn in the last 7 months. My body kind of told me to go fuck myself. I spent a lot of time with IV’s and meds and MRI machines and one large needle in my spine. I had a week in the hospital. It’s been more than a little distracting.
A few weeks back I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
This in no way will bring down my blog at all. In fact, the slap in the face that it gave me was good. I feel remarkably mortal and it’s reminded me why I started all of this in the first place about a decade ago. I just wanted to make my readers and followers aware of what was going on so you knew I was not slacking off or letting my blog go. I’m not at all. In fact, it’s about to get bigger because why the F not? More on that later.
The fact is that this blog and the music that fuels it has gotten me through a lot of shit and I am not about to let that stop being the case. So let’s do this.In the meantime, I am, as always, supporting everyone in the scene with reposts on all social sites as much as I can. I have some blog posts planned and a few press releases dropping shortly. If you have something going on, please reach out as always. Give me all the details, and lets make some stuff happen.
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…
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:
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!
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!
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!
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 email@example.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!
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.
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.
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.