In case you are living under a rock today, we are here to let you know The Peach Music Festival has released their initial lineup and opened up early bird ticket sales. I hopped on over to take a look at the poster and let me just say…
If there is any festival you need to be at this year, this will be it. Setting up from their home base at gorgeous Montage Mountain, PA, the festival will gather friends from July 2nd to July 5th with fireworks every night. Massive headliners like Umphrey’s McGee and moe. are blazing forth from the lineup poster – and OYSTERHEAD. Freaking Oysterhead is poised to be the festival surprise winner for 2020, mark my words. I have been a disciple of Les Claypool for 25 years so the opportunity to see him tear it up would be a dream. In addition to that fat bag of awesomeness, festival favorites like Twiddle, JRAD, and Aqueous can be found below on the lineup poster. The incredible Dopapod is there too. Keller, Goose, Magic Beans, Kitchen Dwellers, more and more… There was seriously way too much girlie “squeeeee” in my voice as I read these names off, one by one. We have been able to catch so many of these incredible bands over the years at separate festivals and shows, and the opportunity to catch them all in one weekend has me seriously excited in the pants.
Peach is one of those festivals that I have been wanting to go to for years but just have not been able to make it happen. This is poised to be the first year A Perfect Mess is there to give our readers the full on low down. I’m already on the website trying to secure tickets under the payment plan, and judging by how my log-in screen is just spinning around and around forever, so is everyone else. You can head on over and get your early bird passes at http://PeachMusicFest.com
The jam scene is overflowing with artists and fans who want you to help them change the world. There is no shortage of folks who are ready and willing to tell you how we as humans are ruining everything with what we eat, how we commute, where our clothes come from and how we live. There are not nearly as many though who are out there putting their skills where their mouth is to make a real, genuine difference for the world. Dopapod is one of those artists willing to put up or shut up, and if I didn’t have incredible amounts of respect for them before, I sure as hell do now. They have a plan, and you can help.
The band has released a fantastic new track called November. It’s currently streaming now on the very Dopapod date of 11/11, but it’s not just here to tickle our ears with amazingness. It’s here to give us the opportunity to put up or shut up ourselves. We are going to plant some trees, friends. First, we are going to dance it out to the sweet synth magic, killer drum sounds, grooving bass lines, and soaring guitar of this incredible track. It reminds me of a lot of the vibe that came out of MEGAGEM, with a bit of that orchestral jam and hard hitting vibe. It’s a really fantastic track, recorded at the same time in Blackhawk, CO. The song is amazing, but the words hit harder than anything. ” The smoke has burned a hole, through the walls that kept us cold. We fell asleep with fire in hand, we need a different plan.” That’s it right there.
The song is inspired by the climate crisis we are facing as humans on Mother Earth. She’s ill, and we are responsible for her cure. To quote drummer Neal “Fro” Evans on his Facebook post promoting the track, “She is our home, and we are all behind on rent.” Truth. We have been taking a lot and giving back little to help replenish her, and it’s time for that to change. The band is donating 100% of all profits from this song to the organization “Trees, Water, and People”, a non-profit that plants trees in North and South America. (read more about them at www.treeswaterpeople.org)
The band is streaming this song on Spotify and all other platforms so you can hear it and love it, but if you head over to their bandcamp page, you can donate to make a difference. It won’t take much. Every dollar donated is one tree planted. That’s a pretty easy way to make a change. So dig down in those couch cushions, clean out the cup holder in your car, shake the change from the bottom of your purse, and buy some trees. Just buy one tree if it’s all you can afford. That beautiful tree will make oxygen for us all to enjoy.
I remember my first discovery of Aqueous about four years ago. I was just starting to feel them on my radar as I was delving into the scene. I loved the dance and funk fueled rock jams they were throwing out there, and I loved that they were so fresh in their sound. I got to see them open for Twiddle in Stroudsburg, PA at the Sherman when I wasn’t totally familiar with their catalog yet and danced my ass off. The following summer was my first really getting into festivals and they were just EVERYWHERE. Every lineup that dropped that spring had them on it. They seemed to be on so many things at once that I was wondering how the heck they were pulling it off. Teleporting? Holograms? We were able to catch them several times that summer. I thought at that time that these guys must be the hardest working band in the jam scene. I know now that I was right, and that it has paid off.
As a band, these are some of the most polished and dedicated players doing it out there right now. They pour themselves intro their craft – heart, soul and body – so completely. You can hear it in every lick and beat they put out into the universe. As people, they are some of the nicest that I ever had the chance to have a mildly intoxicated, taco-gifting tent interview with at a festival. That kind where it’s too loud to hear much of anything said in response to your questions, so you spend as much time as you can just making sure the band knows they are making people happy with their music. Because they truly are. Their last full length record, Color Wheel, blew my mind more than a little bit and remains one of the best albums that came out of 2018, in my opinion. I was delighted to learn they were dropping an EP, and curious as to what it would give us.
The record, Burn It Down, is a funky four track trip through rock, dance, and jam flavor and it’s dropping with a fresh style and just a touch of delicious throwback. “Come and Go” is absolutely my favorite song on the record. It’s got a clean and steady drum beat with fantastic vocals and guitar fire, lit up over a hot bass line. This is a constant hip shake track with singable vocals and I am completely unable to sit still listening to it. It’s got an almost Duran Duran thing happening in the vocal. The band caught such a cool vibe when they wrote this song and it holds strong from start to finish. I really want to check this out live! The title track, “Burn It Down”, is a straight dance rock hop with those awesome vocal harmonies and hip shaking bass and drum groove. The guitar work is straight fire on this track and you won’t be able to help but sing along. This song is amazing and makes you MOVE!
“Little Something To Me” is a slick trip of a track that grabs you with those harmonies and holds you with that sexy groove. This song has something really cool with its stepping drum beat and dirty rock guitar flavor. The final track, “On The Edge”, reminds me of pop rock in the late 90’s and listening to it just shot me back to my early 20’s. I love that about music. Some artists are so good at capturing a groove or a vibe and injecting it into the new music they are writing so that their listener is jolted to another time and space in their soul. Aqueous has gotten really good at this. I don’t think most bands can pack this much flavor and punch into a 14 minute, four song EP – but Aqueous did it. Burn It Down is straight fire.
You can catch Aqueous playing with Twiddle at The Capitol Theater on November 29th and 30th. These two bands put on an incredible show and we really hope to be there. Mostly, I am really wanting to hear these new songs live. Aqueous remains one of the best live bands I have ever had the pleasure of rocking out to, and I can’t say enough that you should be checking them out! Give your ears a taste of Burn It Down as soon as humanly possible. You need this in your life.
This is a review I put off accidently for WAY too long.
We happened to catch this band this past summer at a festival as an opener and we were so floored, we couldn’t stop talking about them. We listened to this album all the way to the festival and then again all the way home – and for weeks after. This young band threw so much of what I expected from them right out the window with their unique sound and feverish energy. Then life happened and my review never got posted for 800 reasons, most of which revolve around me being a basket case. But I can’t let the year slip past me and not talk about this fantastic band. They are called One Time Weekend, and their 2019 release Weekend at the Circus is going to be your new favorite record. Don’t take my word for it. Just go listen.
The band themselves are a four piece from Connecticut that have been turning heads all over the upper Northeast since their beginnings in 2016. For us down yonder in New Jersey, we hadn’t heard of them until they were popped on a particular festival this year in Upstate New York and flew into my sights. Their recorded material is polished and many sided. Their live show is bursting with energy and movement. Honestly, I can’t wait to see these guys blow up all over the festival scene for 2020 and if they are not everywhere, something is wrong with the universe. These kids have that thing. They have the drive, and they have the spirit. They are something special.
But let’s talk about this record. Weekend at the Circus is a wonderful blend of jammable rock infused with elements of pop punk, funk, and it’s not going to be anything you expect. The record opens up with energy infused Dongo Bongo with its body moving prog-type groove and fantastic vocals. There is so much in this song that makes me feel like a kid in the mid-90’s and it’s so cool. This band captures a vibe that isn’t easy to project and yet here they are, doing it perfectly. The second track Cavity has a slow start that pumps into a march before exploding into a really fun folk punk stomp that reminds me of Streetlight mixed with really fantastic vocals. I love this song.
The album has so many flavors. Omelet gives you funk scratch with screaming fast paced vocals that go into a hard rock breakdown. The song One Time Weekend is full of killer guitar work laid over some slow reggae feel with great vocals. I know I keep mentioning the vocals on this album, but they are stellar. Well written, well executed, singable as an audience member or just driving in your car. There is nothing better than that! But everything is that good. The bass lines are fire. The guitar work is incredibly intricate and complex without getting boring. The drums are steady and groove heavy. These guys are just really freaking good. One of my other favorites on the record is Dr. Funk with it’s plucky guitar intro that spreads over into a clap-along funky parade of sounds, complete with brassy accents and super fun groove. This album is simply one of the most fun from start to finish that I have heard in a long time. Every single song is good. No need to skip anything. How often can we say that about anyone’s record lately?
These guys have a bunch of dates left on their fall tour schedule, some with our friends in Catallus! Get yourself out there and see these guy do that thing they do. Here is hoping they add some New York and New Jersey dates for the new year! You can check out the album Weekend at the Circus on Spotify or wherever you like to listen to stuff. I like Spotify. And Spotify likes me. I am a huge fan of One Time Weekend and I suggest strongly that you put them in your ears ASAP. These guys might be young, but they are incredibly talented and it’s my prediction that you will be seeing them all over this summer.
The music in this scene never stops surprising me. When I first learned who MOM AND DAD were, my immediate impression was, “Ok…so you have one half of Dopapod, and it’s the rhythm. This is going to be magical!” And, well, I was half right.
MOM AND DAD is absolutely magical – and absolutely nothing like the rhythm of Dopapod. In fact, what I have learned is that to assume that sort of thing is to do these creative writing minds absolutely no justice. This three piece packs a massive punch of their own and it’s worth talking about. The band’s upcoming second album, 21st Century Blues, is a heavy stepping trip through multiple genres, styles, and concepts and reminded me that music can still be so incredibly diverse within one record. And I love that!
The album’s first track, Video Games, comes in hard and electric like a transformer fire. It has a great heavy sonic-rock type of flavor that is exciting and fun. Bonus: it’s super easy to sing along with! The second and title track, 21st Century Blues, is a bluesy (obviously) brooding modern tune about waiting for that return text or that social media “like”, and it’s absolutely necessary for the world today to hear. It’s hilariously accurate. I can see myself sing-quoting this super fun, electric feeling song for years to come. Don’t miss the fantastic solo at the 3 quarter mark!
One of my favorite tracks on the record is Caffeine. This song is an accurate audible representation of what my brain feels like on actual caffeine, which I consume in enormous quantities. I can feel each electrode firing with each drum hit, each bend of a guitar string, each electronic key sound. Plus the bass line in this song is creatively laid out and really cool. Another favorite of mine is Help Myself. It has a throw back dirty rock vibe with guitar solo fire and some really great vocals. All in all, this is a stellar record. It’s a super fun trip from a band who quite obviously doesn’t take themselves too seriously. They absolutely could, it would be well deserved seeing as they are incredibly solid musicians and stand out folks in this scene. But they don’t, and that makes me like them so much more. It’s also worth a mention that there was a SIX YEAR GAP between their last record and this one! I am sure there are some folks who have been waiting very patiently for this album, and they will not be let down.
I love to get band perspectives on their cool records when I can, so I threw a few questions at MOM AND DAD guitar guy Ben Sword to see what came out!
APM: How did MOM AND DAD come together initially?
Ben:“Chuck and I have been playing together since we were seventeen. We both attended Berklee College of Music, where we met Neal. After scraping some songs and sounds together in Neal’s basement, we started playing shows in Boston in 2010.”
APM: What was it like writing the album? Were these songs that came together quickly, or grew slowly since your last release (2014)?
Ben:“Some of the songs on this album were written recently, and a few of them were written some years ago. Once we chose the songs to start tracking, piecing the album together came naturally. We even have a few tasty leftovers that we did not use for this album.”
APM: Any special recognition for folks who helped out on the album?
Ben:“NO!…….jk. We tracked drums and a few other things at Mountain Star Studio in Black Hawk, CO. Our good friend Jocko at More Sound Studio in Syracuse mixed and mastered the album. Sarah Kirsch gave us some incredible vocals on the song “Video Games.”Larry Elefante provided the photo that was the inspiration for the album cover.”
APM: What are your plans for 2020?
Ben: “Another album. Probably of the “consistently loud” variety.”
And there you have it, folks! 21st Century Blues is super creative and fun. Each song is an exciting individual and I love that aspect of it. On a first listen through, you have no idea what is coming next. Despite playing all over the place this past festival season, I have yet to catch these guys live. This record has made that a personal mission for me, so I hope their 2020 plans include a trip to play the tri-state area. If you are in the Denver, CO area, do yourself a favor and head out for the band’s album release show at The Larimer Lounge on November 7! Keep an eye to the band’s page for more shows and goods on what the band has coming up at http://www.momanddad.band . Check out 21st Century Blues as soon as you can! I recommend it highly!
Music is life. It’s a living, breathing thing that is ever growing and changing. More than that, music is this amazing blank canvas that we entrust to artists. On it, they create magic that tickles our brains and weaves us into memories, emotions, journeys and stories. This amazing thing happened as I started to write about music in this scene – my mind opened to all these explorations in sounds that I had no idea I loved so much. The most recent one of these that I have had the privilege to explore is Elephant Wrecking Ball. They have a new record out called Joy Front and it’s blowing my mind. So much of what I have always tried to bring to my readers is the vibe – the feeling of the music I am listening to. This record has made me feel things I have a heck of a time putting into words. Honestly, this is one of the hardest reviews I have ever tried to write.
If you are not familiar with Elephant Wrecking Ball, the band is a unique trombone-led trio of outstanding musicians writing a fusion of jazz-heavy art for your ears. Trombonist Scott Flynn, known for his work with bands like John Brown’s Body and Jazz is Phish (to name a few), bassist Dan Africano, also of John Brown’s Body and Ghost Light, and drummer Neal “Fro” Evans, most known for his work in Dopapod, make up this mastery of sound with a brilliant understanding of the way it weaves through the soul. It’s incredibly unfortunate that I am so new to what they are doing because I have become such a fan while just doing this review. I have been missing out.
The album Joy Front is the band’s fourth release and for anyone with a love of sound explorations, this is a must hear record. Within it are electronic elements woven into jazz, groove heavy drums and bass, and something profoundly sensual that is happening throughout the record from start to finish. If ever there was a group of songs to put on, dim the lights, and let your mind explore within itself, this is it. And I can say that from experience because it’s become one of my favorites to do that with.
On tracks like Practicing Underdog, the band members almost seem to play with one another as tempos change. You can go from a body moving bass groove into a drum solo all beneath the slinky sounds of the trombone as it rises and falls. Escape From Lemuria is a sexy, almost rocksteady feeling with a steady bass groove that moves you and soulful brassiness. I love how the trombone is out front, singing like a vocal. The title track from the record is another favorite of mine, and I love the way that the drums play under the quick bursts of brass before it all comes in strong and hard, and a little spacey for a moment with steady bass feels. The changes are just so cool. Its fun the way this music takes you places in your mind while you just move your body with the flow. There is so much to love going on in Joy Front.
The band is on tour through November 2nd and I can’t suggest hard enough that if you are able to, you get out and catch Elephant Wrecking Ball. This is sound explorations that go so many places. This is art for the ears. This is the soundtrack you have been looking for. The album is available on Spotify (if that’s your bag, baby) and other outlets. You can keep up with the band on their website at https://elephantwreckingball.com/
I am hoping they are in the tri-state area in the new year because this is a live music experience I look forward to having as soon as I can. See you out there, friends!
Let me start this off by saying that I despise my birthday. I don’t often have a good one, and sometimes they are downright terrible. Now that I have hit my 40’s, it just feels like a reminder that I am spiraling out of control into the great abyss. So this year, when I was asked to cover PEAK at Brooklyn Bowl, I decided this fine evening was going to be my birthday celebration. I had never been to Brooklyn Bowl at all (…I know, right?! How did that happen???) and PEAK shows have become some of my favorite outings. Plus they were there in support of TAUK who I had never seen live, and there would be beer, so why not? Birthday locked and loaded – lets go!
I said in my previous post that the first time I caught PEAK live was last year around this time. I thought then that they were one of the most fun live bands that I had seen in a very long time. Little did I know they would take that evaluation of mine and blow it to the moon this past weekend. Over the last year, through lineup changes and new songs, the band has become a performance powerhouse. Their live show is floor to ceiling energy exploding from start to finish and if you can manage to stand still during it, I just don’t know what to do with you. With masterful songwriting and outstanding stage presence, the band is already standing strong. Factor in how they bring forth exceptional vocals, explosive drums, groove heavy bass, and a guitar and key team that you would think have been working in tandem for decades, and you have one of the most exciting live bands to hit this scene in a long time. If you have not seen PEAK yet, you are missing out.
The show started out tamely and steadily with a trickle of crowd coming into Brooklyn Bowl. Folks were grabbing a quick bite or hovering around the bar for a pint and the music was trickling into their ears. You see, PEAK has these fantastic guitar solos and the stellar vocals. The music pulls you in and before you know what is happening, it starts that quick hip shake. I love reviewing shows because people watching in the crowd is one of my all time favorite pastimes. I stood off to the side and watched as ears perked up and people started to take notice. Slowly they were moving towards the stage.
As the show progressed, the beats got steadier and quicker and this magic started to spread through the room. People were coming closer to the band, bodies were swaying, and even the bowlers had taken notice and had started to migrate towards the stage from the side. By the three quarter mark, I was in the crowd dancing with everyone and watching as people remarked to those standing near them, “Who is this??? This is great!” It was a true delight to watch people taking notice of this band I had been enjoying watching the progress of for the last year. I was more than happy on numerous occasions to exclaim, “THIS IS PEAK!” (caps for yelling over music-effect)
By the end, I was more or less spilling my beer all over the place due to high intensity dancing fits. I would imagine it was NOT pretty, but the energy of the night was just infectious. Is this what a GOOD birthday is supposed to feel like? This was the best I have ever seen them play. They were so very on that night and the smiles between them showed it. My legs are still sore two days later from the dancing. Guitarist, vocalist, and founder Jeremy Hilliard and keyboardist and vocalist Johnny Young brought out some killer harmonies and seriously nasty solos. New to the band extraordinary bassist Josh T. Carter knocked it out of the park with his grooves and really displayed what an exceptional player he is. Drummer Kito Bovenshulte absolutely blasted the energy in the room with his steady dance beats and effortless style. He is just one of the greatest drummers on the scene right now. Think I’m lying? Go see PEAK.
Honestly, if I don’t see PEAK all over the late night festival scene this summer, there is something profoundly wrong with all of you promoters out there and you need to find new work. I know much of that crowd was there for the exceptionally awesome TAUK (who blew my mind with that Hendrix set…good god, dude…) but they were stoked with what PEAK put in their souls that night and their explosion of applause at the end of their set was evidence to that. I hope you were there to feel that energy in the room but if not, don’t you worry! They have more dates coming up and you can be there. Check the list below and follow the band on their website at http://www.peaktheband.com.
It’s easy to sing the praises of bands you like, but when you get to sing the praises of bands who are genuinely doing exciting things and creating a super fun vibe out on the venue floors, it makes having a blog all the more fun. Truly one of my favorite live bands right now is New York City’s PEAK. Last year I was sent on assignment for a show review over to Arlene’s Grocery to cover their show, knowing little about the band except that they had put out a song earlier in the year that I was mildly obsessed with. I showed up, did a quick and dirty interview, and hung back for the show not really knowing what to expect. Let me tell you honestly, that show was the first in quite a while that really lit me up! I was floored by the live experience the band put out that night and super excited to put that down into words. I have been following their progress ever since.
The band’s 2018 release, Electric Bouquet, was a fantastic introduction into the unique style they project. There is a blending of flavors that creates a very fluid and energetic vibe with enough groove and progressive concepts that you never get bored listening. Pair that with an exceptional live show, and you have a super fun recipe for success. You don’t have to take my word for it though, as the band has released the first chapter in their HOT CLIPS series, with Volume 1. Recorded at BRYAC in Bridgeport, CT on July 27, 2019, it features seven tracks that do well to highlight the band’s style. You can check out songs like Wronged Man, Funk and Tonic, and personal favorite Path Paved with Roses. Give a listen below on Soundcloud and see for yourself what PEAK live is all about.
Since I caught PEAK for the first time at Arlene’s last year, the already very capable and talented guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Hilliard and keyboardist/vocalist Johnny Young have ramped up their live footprint with the additions of bassist Josh T. Carter (Haley Jane and the Primates/SunDub) and drummer Kito Bovenschulte (Particle/Fikus). I always dug what the Primates were putting out and Josh is a stellar bassist (and I’m married to one so I am a bit biased). Kito is easily one of the best drummers I have seen, hands down. We caught them a couple months back at Sarah Street Grill in Stroudsburg, PA playing with Crow’s Wine and their live show absolutely crushed. Adding these two very accomplished musicians to an already stellar base of great songs and talent has built what will surely be a live force to be reckoned with on the scene. This is a band that truly meshes extremely well on stage and the result is an incredibly fun and exciting groove to find yourself caught up in. Standing still is just not an option. This Saturday, you will be able to see that for yourself if you find yourself in the NYC area as PEAK will be at Brooklyn Bowl supporting TAUK. We will be there, so I fully expect to see you all out there shaking it as well. (details at the end of this article)
I caught up with band founder and scene veteran (formerly of Turbine) and super swell guy Jeremy Hilliard to get a quick word about the recent lineup changes and what the band has in the hopper for us:
“The band has been in flux line-up wise since I started it three years ago, and finally it feels like the right lineup. The band has really come together and I’m humbled to be playing with these musicians. I kind of woke up one day and it had all come together, which is a great feeling. That all said, it’s very new and although the chemistry is right, we have to get a tour or two under our belt and put in the time to really find out what we’re capable of. But we couldn’t be more excited to do that.” As for what’s coming down the pike for PEAK: “We have enough songs and have an idea for the next album (or TWO) and we are currently renovating Johnny (Young)’s studio and plan to self produce – which is very exciting. I’ve never done that before. We have a huge renovation task ahead that is starting next week, and hope to finish that and be ready to record by early 2020. “
My love for Twiddle is well known on this blog. It was them who built me the bridge that I guardedly walked across into the jam scene from my high walled little world in ska, rocksteady, and reggae – leading me to everything I discovered after that. (which this blog has been a log of along the way) They and their live shows helped me into a whole new world. Friends met, lessons learned, eyes opened. I admit that I get a bit offended by critics of the band because of how much they helped me find that part of myself. As a collective, the band is a masterful batch of songwriters. You don’t have to like them. In fact, you can downright loath them. But if you deny their abilities, I’m sorry – you simply aren’t listening because you don’t want to. And you’re missing it.
One quarter of that songwriting master team is Mihali.
As a solo performer, he is much more than his role in Twiddle. I saw him perform as half of Gubbilidis (with fellow Twiddle alum Zdenek Gubb) a couple years back and was brought to tears when they did Counting Crow’s very 90’s tune, Round Here. (a personal favorite for a million reasons that I am sure no one wants to hear) I was super impressed with half of the band. I am floored by just Mihali on his own. He is able to capture something very deeply soulful and earthy in his style of composition that I have a hard time finding words for. I was super excited when his song Fading State hit last year and I was eagerly awaiting for an album to drop. Based on the online chatter, I am not alone. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet. However, we have been blessed with another track to groove on. You don’t have to love Twiddle to be able to get down with what Mihali does as a solo artist. His flavor is uplifting and groove heavy, and this new track, Stubborn Smile, is no exception. This track is delicious.
Stubborn Smile has a mild reggae feel but a soul gripping clutch with it’s vibe. If the melody doesn’t grab you, the lyrics absolutely will. We live in some tumultuous times right now and I know I am not the only one walking life’s road with a lot of uncertainty. This song strums those chords deep – how we know what we have to offer, but maybe we don’t know where to lay it down. We know we are imperfect beings, but we know we have something for this world. We might not have found the way out of the rut we ride in this road yet. Mihlai has a great way of verbalizing things in the heart. He did it again with Stubborn Smile, and it’s just really lovely. There is a delicateness to strong words and thoughts in his delivery, both musically and verbally. I think that is where his magic lies as a performer and a songwriter. All in all, this is just a really great track and has bolstered my desire for a full length solo album. I really hope something hits soon!
I encourage you to head over to Spotify or your spot of choice and give Stubborn Smile a good, hard listen. I have it on repeat today and recommend it highly.
Mihali will be out on the road soon for his fall tour. Get on out and check him out! You can find some more information on dates and tickets on his website, http://www.MihaliMusic.com
I was kind of late to the party on Dopapod, despite seeing them play with my husband’s band a million years ago. It was a few months before the release of their album MEGAGEM that I was really delving into their catalog and getting into the unique songwriting that they were mastering. When MEGAGEM was about to drop, I got an advance copy and sat down to digest it for a review. That album blew my damn mind. Everything I thought I knew about the band (and a lot of the music I was listening to at the time in general) went right out the window and I was reminded WHY I was getting so into them. As songwriters, they are stellar. The creativity is unmatched. In that mix is guitarist/vocalist and super nice guy on the scene, Rob Compa. Now Rob has a solo album called Same Damn Thing and believe me when I tell you, no title could be further from the truth as a descriptive.
The album is a fantastic departure from everything you know of Dopapod outside of that fantastic guitar work, and even that sounds very much it’s own thing on this record. It’s no secret in the scene that Rob is an incredible player. He tours as half of the Compa Gantzer due with Aqueous ax man Mike Gantzer, he sits in with pretty much everyone on festivals he plays, there are numerous videos of guest spots and sit ins that pop up whenever Rob is out on the road for any reason, not to mention he does instructional videos on Instagram for fans and guitar heads alike. His role in the songwriting of Dopapod makes it obvious that it’s a strongpoint, but listening to what he puts out as a solo effort really makes that stand out all the more. Rob Compa is a fantastic songwriter.
One of the reasons for this is that in between the great guitar work and serious groove is a mix of thought provoking musings and tongue in cheek jabbings, vocalized and strung delicately through the mixes. I was already a fan of what Rob does, but after this, my respect for him as a musician skyrocketed. The songs are fun and well put together with interesting plays on style and genre. The first track, Better Late Than Never, has a heavy strumming groove laced with slide steel guitar sounds that give a bluesy vibe with a light country western flavor dusting. Rob plays with that bluesy feel in several places on the album, like Garbage Man. I love the lyrics on this song as well. It has the storytelling element, which Rob has a great voice for as he makes it easy to pay attention to the lyrics. The track Hi Doggie has a dirty rock edge with Rob’s particular brand of shredding throughout. It’s a great song with a great vocal flair. The album all together is strong as hell, and changes up as you go from track to track. There is a strong versatility to the way the songs are put together that leaves you guessing as to what you will hear next as the song comes to an end. That is INCREDIBLY refreshing among stacks of albums that sound like one regurgitated song over and over.
Still, listening through, I had some questions that no one would be better to answer than Rob himself, so being the annoying little thing that I am, I asked!
APM: So first off, I love how much of a departure from Dopapod that this album is. How long have you been sitting on a solo album concept? Was this something you were working on during the band’s hiatus?
RC: “When the band wasn’t playing, I sort of had a realization. I had spent twenty years basically just being focused on being as of a good of a guitar player as I could be. I still think of myself as a guitar player first, and still kind of a beginner as far as writing music, but I sort of started to feel like good guitar playing is kind of futile if it can’t exist in good songs.
One kind of important moment for me happened when I went to a straight ahead jazz jam at a bar in Philadelphia, just a month or two after the band had started the hiatus. I love playing and listening to bebop, but I don’t have any illusions about what kind of a guitar player I am. I’m a jam band kid who loves studying jazz, but I’m far from being a first call straight ahead guitarist.
Anyway, I went to this jam, and I had a pretty lousy experience. I went home telling myself I would shed whatever song I had played with the house band and come back the following week and be that much better and prove that I could “hang” as as the jazz dudes say.
The next morning I woke up, and I thought to myself “why am I going to sit around and practice songs that were written seventy years ago? Go make something of your own.” That was the day I started writing the song “Hi Doggie.” “
APM: Any special recognition you would like to highlight for fellow players on the record?
RC: “Well, firstly, Jocko Randall at More Sound Studios is absolutely the biggest reason this was able to happen. He was unbelievably generous with his time and guidance, and was an amazing teacher through the whole experience.
Also Russ Lawton (Trey Anastasio Band, Soule Monde), who played drums on every song except for one, was a super encouraging and positive soul through the whole process, not to mention having one of the deepest grooves I’ve ever gotten the pleasure to experience.
Michelangelo Carubba from Turkuaz even went so far as to route his flights to Turkuaz gigs just so he could swing through Syracuse and play on one song. Mikey was Dopapod’s original drummer, and we’ve known each other since we were kids going to Berklee. It meant a lot for me to be able to make music with him again.
Pat Markley is an amazing bass player that I started running into at jam sessions up in Vermont, where I live, and he played most of the bass you hear on the record. We did everything through e-mail, with me sending him tracks and just giving him a general gist of what I was looking for for each song, and he knocked it out of the park.
And lastly, for the song Garbage Man, I was hanging with Jocko at the studio and said how badly I wished I could have upright bass on the song. He said “let me some calls,” and a couple hours later he opened an email with this gorgeous upright bass track on top of Garbage Man, played by Joey Arcuri of Driftwood. I actually still haven’t even met Joey in person, but WOW did that song get a whole new dimension from his playing. “
APM: We have bumped into you a few times at festivals and you are one of the nicest people out there doing music. It’s something that I can say is so appreciated. I follow you on Instagram and love how much you interact with your fans there. (the videos are the best) Is that connection with the people who dig your music something that is important to you as a player?
RC: “I’m actually a pretty private person overall, and I have some pretty substantial social anxiety. (Who doesn’t?) That being said, I love playing guitar more than anything, and how cool is it to have people care about something that you really just do because it’s fun? Am I really gonna complain when someone wants to say hello because they love a record I made, or guitar solo I played, or a lesson video I posted? Nah.
That being said, there’s a time and a place for stuff like that. Last night I went out to a concert with my girlfriend, and a lot of people came up to talk to me. I don’t mind it as long as they don’t mind that I actually am pretty quiet and don’t have a whole lot to say. In particular when the show’s happening I have a hard time interacting with people, simply because I get stressed because I can’t hear what they’re saying, and I wanna hear the music! “
APM: You do a TON of sit ins and solo work out on the live music scene, and to me, it shows how much you deeply love what you do. What has been your favorite sit in that you have done? Is there someone you aspire to work with live or in studio that you haven’t been able to yet?
RC: “I’ve done a lot of gigs with Mike Gantzer from Aqueous, but we’ve yet to be able to write any music together. I’d love to do that with him.
As far as sit ins, I got to play with Dweezil Zappa a couple years ago at Catskill Chill, which was just the coolest thing ever. Sadly, there’s no documentation of it anywhere.
Also, right when I moved to Burlington last year, I was walking around the downtown area and I ran into Vinnie and Al from Moe. They were playing an acoustic set a store called Tailfeather, and they invited me to sit in at it, and then again at their show that night at Higher Ground. That sit in was amazing and really important because it led to some really surprising and wonderful things for me that don’t even have anything to do with music. “
APM: I have this vague recollection of you teasing the song Same Damn Thing a while back. It was a post on Facebook where you specifically called out the gimmick concept in the scene. I was REALLY hoping it was released because you hit the nail on the head with a lot of thoughts I tend to have about the scene for the last bunch of years. What was it that inspired this song?
RC: “I was really angry when I wrote that song. I had spent ten years pouring everything I had into my band, and by that point I was back to square one. No band, not really doing anything, feeling pretty low. Meanwhile, all my friends in other bands seemed to be on top of the world, and I had to just sit and see all these posts about sold out shows, tour buses, festivals, etc. All this fun amazing stuff that I missed. Anyhow, I realized that I could either make a vitriolic, useless Facebook post where I complained, or I could make something artistic with the way that I felt. Sometimes I regret writing it. In fact, Dopapod played it at a show recently, and I felt kind of funny singing it; I just don’t feel that angry anymore. But it was honest and pure (albeit uber cynical) at the time that I wrote it, and I feel good about using the way I felt to be creative and proactive.”
APM: Any upcoming dates we can pencil in our calendars to check out some live music goodness?
RC: “I’m gonna do some acoustic shows in October with my friend Haley Jane so keep your eyes peeled! And I’m also playing a few trio shows. One with Chris and Adrian from Kung Fu at Heady Vermont in Brattleboro on September 28th, and another on October 10th with Pat Markley and Dan Ryan at Higher Ground in Burlington VT, opening for West End Blend.”
Do yourself a favor and grab a listen of Same Damn Thing. It’s a fantastic record that will keep you guessing from track to track, while giving you a whole new look at what makes Rob Compa one of the best guitarists and songwriters in the scene. It’s 100% A Perfect Mess approved, and highly recommended! Get out and check out Rob’s upcoming dates!