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.
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!
New Jersey’s northern “Prunk” rockers Fish House Road have been doing their particular brand of funk and prog since 2011. Playing local venues as well as supporting national acts like Consider the Source and The Slide Brothers, the band has spent the last eight years creating a strong following and bringing a damn good time to their stage with their high energy and spirited performances. The band delights in audience participation and stage improvisations. It’s a good show to check out all around.
Recently, Fish House Road debuted a new single for us all to digest called Honey Drip. Always one to give first dibs to my fellow New Jersey jammers, I was more than happy to give the track a good, long listen.
Let me tell you, I was not at all disappointed.
The band gets a lot done in this song in just under four minutes. It’s a hard hitting tune, and it kicks in pretty deep right out of the gate with interesting usage of different genre concepts and puts together this orchestra of sound. It’s got a great traditional rock edge laced with that familiar prog rock soaring feel. The guitar and drum hits create this roller coaster feel, waxing and waning in tempo and intensity. The vocals are pretty cool with just enough melodic warmth and hard edge. It’s and not at all flashy and fills out that sound in a big way.
There is a pretty stellar sax solo about halfway through, care of Tigerman’s Adam Carelli, followed by a soaring guitar solo. It’s easy to get into what these guys are putting down – this song has a really cool sound. The drums and bass are steady and help that rise and fall groove that the song maintains throughout. The sound is big! I am pretty stoked to check it out live, and even more so to hear what is coming next for Fish House Road.
In addition to the bad ass song, the gorgeous artwork was hand drawn by Catherine Hart from the Y’all Art Project, a nonprofit organization that provides art therapy for kids recovering from abuse and other traumas. Big props to the Fish House Road guys for partnering with such an incredible organization. That’s pretty freaking amazing.
In addition, stellar guitarist Dan Morrell tells me there is a partnership in the works with 2nd Act Beer to release a Honey Drip Brew this fall. Fall + Music + Beer = WIN in the eyes of A Perfect Mess. Definitely head over to Spotify and give Honey Drip and Fish House Road a good listen, and keep your eyes peeled for what these guys have coming down the pike. Head on out and check them out live where you can this fall! You can check out their upcoming shows over at https://fishhouseroad.com/shows
Last year at Disc Jam, we happened to catch the guys in Fake Flowers Real Dirt doing their thing on stage and we have been fans ever since. This Baltimore band has a sound that blends funk, hip-hop, and groovy throwback jam vibes with soul infusions that keep feet tapping and bodies moving. Their stage presence was fantastic. I have to admit that I have been chomping at the bit a little bit for some new music from them. Naturally then I was THRILLED when I was asked to give a listen and a watch to the band’s new politically charged track, “Upside Your Head”.
Right out of the gate, this track is fire. It’s got a solid intensity while still maintaining the wicked groove that Fake Flowers Real Dirt does so well. The vibe is awesome and vocal on this track is killer. Listen to the words because it’s important! This song is speaking a whole lot of truth for our current conditions. It’s my personal opinion (obviously, as is this whole blog) but there are not nearly enough protest songs happening right now, and there should be. This is a scene that loves to brag of it’s roots and it’s social stance and activism, but given the opportunity to take a stand, there is a lot of should shrugging and “no comment” happening. There are a lot of very prominent bands who don’t want to go on record as having an opinion in these charged up and turbulent times. I am absolutely LOVING that Fake Flowers Real Dirt have put their foot down and made their voices heard with this track.
The video that accompanies the debut of this song it’s super fun. It is a mashup of presidents and other politicians that seem to be grooving and syncing to the words. It brings a bit of lighthearted fun to a serious matter, and it’s awesome and very well done. Don’t worry, the video is non-partisan (as much as it can be) but the song has an important message about the state of our union that needs your ear. Trust me when I say your body will be moving the whole time, as this song is outstanding. I am hoping this is not the last we hear from Fake Flowers Real Dirt for a while because if this is a taste of what the band has going on, we are in for a damn good time while we work to make changes.
Michigan’s own funktactular groove band Desmond Jones is back with a brand new single called “Still Creatures” off their upcoming release “Hello, Helou”, due out this summer. One of my favorite reviews of the last few years, these guys have an incredible funky movement coated in jazz flavors and laced with jam tones . There is a freshness to their sound that catches and sticks with you. Their last release, 2017’s self-titled album, was a fantastic blend of their signature sound and wonderful lighthearted take on the world. Their new stuff is looking like a fantastic and exploratory evolution for the band, and I couldn’t be more excited for that new stuff to hit. The seven song album consists of songs written by four different band members and recorded with live strings, added percussion, and all sorts of studio experimentation.
This new track, “Still Creatures”,is a fantastic example of what the band has been creating. It starts right in all jazzy and smooth with their brand of funky kick. The sax intro is pure cool and the groove that follows with its plucky flavors is infectious. It’s really good! The vocals are on point, and the drum/bass/guitar combo is on fire. These guys have perfected their own brand of familiar sound and it’s intricately put together. It’s got that funk jam fusion fun factor down, and creates a very danceable sound that will prevent any effort you might put forth in standing still. Don’t fight it. Just go with that groove. If this song is any indication of where Desmond Jones is going with their sound, I think everyone should be eagerly awaiting this release this summer.
You can check out “Still Creatures” in your own ears right HERE! Don’t take my word for it. Go groove for yourself. You can grab your copy of “Hello, Helou” this summer, with a vinyl presale that is already in effect.
I’m seeing their name popping up on shows all over the place and honestly, I can’t think of a lot of young bands that I am as excited to see hit the scene this season. I think I’ll be at the Bitter End show in NYC (4/23!) and they have a ton of cool dates coming up all over. I think you need to get out and see Desmond Jones do their thing. You can check out their upcoming dates on their website right HERE!
I hope to see you out there! Check out the new track, and grab your copy of “Hello, Helou” this summer!
Philadelphia is a lovely city full of delightful people, wonderful history, a big statue of Rocky, and this incredible Italian pork sandwich that beats out any cheese steak I ever had. Don’t take my word for it, go eat one. Beyond all that though is an inventive and lively music scene comprised of great venues and some massive talent. Always in the mood for something new, I was recently introduced to the dreamy space jam sounds of Muscle Tough. These guys have a new record out called Modern Romance and if you dig those space-heavy jams like I do, this might just be your bag right here.
This is the third record for the trio, following up their 2016 EP release, “Greasin’ Up The Mediocrity Wheel” and 2017’s full length, “Magical Achievements”. The band has had some great guest appearances and played with some heavy hitters on stage, and has been reviewed as a delightful and hilarious band to catch. They are obviously good at what they do musically and have some incredibly inventive concepts. The fact that this is clearly not a band that takes themselves too seriously, and thank God for that, is what cemented them for me. There are more than enough of those on the scene so coming across what these guys are putting out there, front and center, was an incredible relief. Immediately upon seeing that, I was in.
This record is imaginative. Muscle Tough is not a band that is out to carbon copy scenesters and heavy hitters and pass it off as their own. These guys want to make their own mark, and they have. What a shit ton of fun this record is! I am loving the track Down To Clown. First off – what? Where are these titles coming from and why are they so perfect? Second, what? Where are these sounds coming from? There is this very 80’s video game inspired guitar thing happening in this song over these groove heavy bass lines and kicking drums. They get straight up weird but I can’t imagine that dancing to this live is anything but a good freaking time.
Move on along to the track Waiting for Bae. It starts off sweet and gentle, maybe a little seductive? Kind of a, “Hey baby. Come sit down here next to me.” kind of vibe. Don’t get too comfortable though, because the song progresses with some fantastic guitar work. The groove is steady straight through. We Met On Chat Roulette is another great track, with a skipping tempo and a really cool groove. The bass does this really cool almost walking drop behind the guitar at times. I like the way these songs move. Right about halfway through, this song kicks wide open AND RIPS before dropping back into the groove a little harder. Very well done. There is nothing stagnant in what they are doing at all. They never get too spacey before they kick back in. There is just constant movement.
My favorite song on this album is Say Yes To The Mess. Aside from the obvious parallels to my blog (I mean, hello!), this song is an incredibly fun roll through musical chaos. It’s speedy tempo and twirly guitar sounds make one think of spinning in circles on the merry go round on the playground. That one they banned because you could seriously hurt yourself flying off of it at high speeds, which was half the fun. This song is incredibly fun. The ‘get up out of your chair and dance with no form and arms flailing around the room’ kind of fun. Before long though, this track gets into a super trippy groove. These guys must be party to see live, and honestly, I can’t wait.
I really dig this record. There is so much out there that sounds so much alike that there is something so refreshing when you come across a band determined to be skilled and yet so different. I love the references to the complete nonsense of dating in the song titles, and I especially love how the music finds its way to interlace in those concepts and ideas. It’s awesome when an instrumental band can paint pictures with their music, and this is a band that can do it with their humor as much as their talent. This record is just great, and I am highly recommending it.
I was delighted to see that they will be on the 2019 Disc Jam lineup for the festival in Stephentown, NY this June. The Disc Jam folks have put so much amazing music in our laps the last two years that we have gone, so it’s really no surprise to see these guys on there. The festival is a good damn time every year. I hope they like tacos.
These guys have some really cool shows all over the place leading up to Disc Jam, including a Road To Disc Jam show with the amazing Rob Compa Trio at Electric Haze in Worcester, MA on May 10th! If I were you, I would get my booty to that show and give it a good shaking! You can check out all their dates and get more information at their website HERE. Get out there and get some great live music, and pick up the new release from Muscle Tough!