Monthly Archives: August 2016

Can’t-Miss Shows of the Week: Aug. 22-28

Live music in the Lehigh Valley can take on a life of its own in any given week. Take this past Saturday, for example. We thought we’d just innocently head to a ribbon cutting and hear some jazz in Allentown, and it ended up being a Super Saturday triple-header ranging from country rock to hardcore!

With that, know that there’s plenty of adventure in store once again, including our latest…

Can’t-Miss Shows of the Week!

Fri., Aug. 26 | 8 p.m.
Farewell to Summer
Venue:
Spin Me Round Records, 1200 U.S. 22, Phillipsburg, NJ
Admission: FREE
Description: Elijah.the.Fly, Willing Tibet, Chasing Down Sunset, and Houston & the Dirty Rats are featured during this in-store, end-of-summer bash.

Fri., Aug. 26 | 10 p.m.
Carter Lansing
Venue: Stoke Coal Fire Pizza, 1 Lehns Ct., Easton
Admission: FREE
Description: As you re-enter PA, grab a slice and listen to the Acoustic Kitty Project frontman.

Sat., Aug. 27 | 1 p.m.
The Stoop w/ Percolator, Seoul Delhi, Stay at Home Dad, Duke Maroon, and more!
Venue:
1953 Township Line Road, Blue Bell
Admission: $5
Description: Eleven performers in all highlight another special day at the Philly-area DIY venue.

Sat., Aug. 27 | 9 p.m.
Steel City Sunrise

Venue: TD Community Stage on the Air Products Townsquare, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem
Admission: FREE
Description: Bethlehem’s original energetic folk rock band returns to SteelStacks.

LVU Super Saturday: Going Hardcore with Tape Swap Radio

Last night, I concluded Super Saturday by heading over to Bethlehem’s historic Ice House for the final concert of the summer in Tape Swap Radio’s IceHouse Tonight series. The night featured four hardcore bands — Swimmers Lungs, Manbeast, Tile, and Couch Slut — making for, frankly, the heaviest night of music I’ve ever experienced.

Last night’s show, as well as all of Tape Swap Radio’s efforts, was completely DIY and took a village to make a reality. The series was started by local residents Matt Molchany (whom you might know as the frontman of indie rock band Voirvoir) and Shamus McGroggan. The pair, as well as a host of local musicians and music supporters, make it their mission to showcase a different genre at each Tape Swap Radio show.

I also found it interesting to learn that Tape Swap Radio does more than produce live events. Tape Swap is also a music and video series that exclusively features DIY and independent bands. The show airs every other Friday at 11 p.m. on 88.1 WDIY FM, the Lehigh Valley’s NPR station.

On behalf of Lehigh Valley Underground, I want to send congratulations to Tape Swap Radio for a job well done on last night’s show, and a sincere “Thank You” for their efforts in making our music scene that much more vibrant. You can learn more about Tape Swap Radio online and on Facebook.

LVU Super Saturday: Acoustic Kitty Project and Sugar Hill Jazz House

Our Super Saturday at Lehigh Valley Underground has been eventful so far. It started (after retrieving my camera from my parents’ house) with Acoustic Kitty Project, the latest band to play as part of WSCI Radio’s Summer Concert Series. Carter Lansing and company performed for over an hour, playing songs from their current release, “‘Shine,” as well as yet-to-be-released material. Lansing also took some time out for a quick interview, soon to air on WSCIRadio.com.

A little while later, I sprinted — in my car, not on foot — over to Allentown for the grand opening and ribbon cutting of Sugar Hill Jazz House. Located at 39 S. Ninth St., Sugar Hill Jazz House features staff and performers in authentic 1920s attire and a stellar barbecue menu from Chef Jay King, who owns the venue with wife Mary Shearin and Mark Smith. The grand opening received support from the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Hamilton District Main Street Program, and local politicians including Sen. Pat Browne, Rep. Peter Schweyer, and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

We’re not finished yet! In a little while, we’ll be at the Ice House in Bethlehem for Tape Swap Radio’s latest installment of the IceHouse Tonight series. Tonight’s show begins at 8, and of course, you can expect updates here and via Facebook Live.

It’s Another LVU Super Saturday!

To prove that I wasn’t kidding about keeping this post-Musikfest party going, my day is about to get completely out of hand.

First, I have to go to Jersey this morning to get my camera back. My brother borrowed it from me with the intention of covering Musikfest last Sunday, but then he got food poisoning, so… yeah.

After that, here’s where I’ll be all day…

12 p.m.: Acoustic Kitty Project at the WSCI Summer Concert Series in Bethlehem (private recording party)

4:30 p.m.: Sugar Hill Jazz House Grand Opening, 39 S. 9th St., Allentown

8 p.m.: Tape Swap Radio Presents: Couch Slut, TILE, Manbeast, and Swimmers Lungs at the Ice House, 56 River St., Bethlehem

I welcome you to join me at the public events, and I also encourage you to check in with Lehigh Valley Underground on Facebook Live throughout the day for updates from this wild, Super Saturday. Photos and recaps will also be made available here throughout the weekend. See you on the road!

PHOTOS: Dead:Stop, Next to None, and Another Day Dawns at The Originals Music Series (with special guest Mike Portnoy)

Some nights on the music scene make us realize why we do what we do.

OK, to be fair, we’ve had quite a few of those lately. However, tonight reinforced for us that there’s much to look forward to around our Valley, year-round, and that any night can be amazing.

Let’s start with Dead:Stop. The heavy rock/hardcore band started the evening with a dash of punk edge and infectious energy that got the folks in attendance — many of them among our music scene’s younger demographic — up and moving.

After that came Next to None, another young, but wickedly talented band whose progressive metal flair is perhaps only rivaled by its stage presence. Their genre, of course, is not a surprise — the band’s backline includes Max Portnoy on drums, whose father, Mike, is the former drummer for Dream Theater.

Speaking of Mike Portnoy, he was in the house, and would join in on a special treat after his son’s band finished its official set. Portnoy, as well as members of Next to None and local hard rock band Another Day Dawns (who we’ve recently seem somewhere… can’t put our finger on it, though…) participated in an open jam. Musicians rotated in and out for about 45 minutes, playing a jukebox worth of hard rock and metal hits and ending with a full company version of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

Through it all, the packed house and sense of enthusiasm at Chicago Restaurant’s Club Gravity also provided good vibes. With so much youth in the room and onstage, it was easy to dispel the notion that the younger generation doesn’t “get it.” Not only do they get it — but they are just as good at making music as folks twice their age.

The future is bright for our Valley’s music scene, and for every artist who took the stage on Thursday night.

Review: The Dark Matter Trio – The Puzzle With No Pieces

Artist: The Dark Matter Trio
Album: The Puzzle With No Pieces (LISTEN)
Released: September 2015
Genre: Fusion

It’s hard to nail The Dark Matter Trio down to a particular genre. The improvisation and rhythm of jazz is ever-present on the Harrisburg-based instrumental outfit’s latest release, “The Puzzle with No Pieces,” but there are heavy progressive rock and jam influences also at play.

Perhaps it is this unexpected, yet seamless meshing of styles that makes “The Puzzle with No Pieces” so interesting. You never quite know where the record is going, causing you to keep your ears tuned in and your mind at work. The band often visits several different ideas as movements in a single song. Take the triple-named Brenda Lea/Myrtle Likes to Swing/All Hallows Eve for example, which starts as an acoustic rocker with a bass and guitar double melody before heading into a folk/bluegrass movement.

Another example of the band’s versatility is the nine-minute closing title track. This jazz-inspired tune progresses gradually into a headbanging rock outro to conclude the listening journey.

In the end, The Dark Matter Trio has chosen an appropriate name for “The Puzzle with No Pieces.” Each of these ten tracks takes on a different shape in the form of varying soundscapes. Yet, it is these individual parts that comprise a complete work of art.

Track listing:
7 4 2
Sketchbook of a Melancholy Fisherman
Not About Time
Funny Little Bird
Chronologiscope
Big Red Truck
Brenda Lea / Myrtle Likes to Swing / All Hallows Eve
Slow Motion Fight Scene
Imaginautical
The Puzzle With No Pieces

Review: Mesa Jane – This Is How the Meek Riot

Artist: Mesa Jane
Album: This Is How the Meek Riot (LISTEN)
Released: Aug. 12, 2016
Genre: Indie pop

Mesa Jane’s “This Is How the Meek Riot” EP is a record with defined pop sensibilities. The singer’s catchy hooks stick out and make for fun sing-alongs. Yet, a spirit of experimentation is certainly alive on the new release, with gritty, distorted instrumentation and electronic soundscapes that make the record unique.

Each track on “This Is How the Meek Riot” goes unexpected places, and each time, the risk pays off. Opening track “It’s Still Free to Laugh” combines minimalist electronic beats with a simple, cheery piano progression while the Philly-based singer’s indie pop alto sings a catchy melody, complete with lyrics that look on the lighter side of life’s calamity. Meanwhile, “Waking Up to the Sound of a Machine” employs a heavy presence of electronic elements to add punch to an otherwise tender ballad.

“This Is How the Meek Riot” has no shortage of empowering messages. “Everybody Knows” switches back and forth between sweet verses and an uplifting, distorted rock chorus. Meanwhile, EP closer “Honestly” uses poignant spoken word verses to encourage the listener to make the world a better place.

Track listing:
1) It’s Still Free to Laugh
2) Everybody Knows
3) Waking Up to the Sound of a Machine
4) Honestly

Can’t-Miss Shows of the Week: Aug. 15-21

Well, wasn’t that fun?

You might think we’d take a break after covering the nation’s largest free, outdoor music festival right in our backyard over the past couple of weeks. But that, my friends, is just not how we roll.

There’s music year-round in our fair Valley, and we’re going to make it known again with these…

Can’t-Miss Shows of the Week!

Thurs., Aug. 18 | 7 p.m.
Next to None and Dead:Stop at The Originals Music Series
Venue:
Chicago Restaurant and Club Gravity, 1179 Airport Road, Allentown
Admission: FREE
Description: Rumor has it that Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy may be sitting in on a couple of songs…

Fri., Aug. 19 | 9 p.m.
Owls and Lions
Venue: TD Community Stage on the Air Products Townsquare, SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem
Admission: FREE
Description: Enjoy a mix of covers and originals from the North Jersey acoustic duo.

Sat., Aug. 20 | 5 p.m.
Sugar Hill Jazz House Grand Opening
Venue:
39 S. 9th St., Allentown
Admission: FREE
Description: Celebrate the official launch of Allentown’s newest live music venue!

#ThanksMusikfest

As you know from reading Lehigh Valley Underground, this year’s Musikfest was not my first rodeo. However, it was the first go-round for LVU at the nation’s largest free outdoor music festival, and we are beyond grateful that A) this thing happens in our backyard and B) we had the opportunity to take part.

We saw and heard some amazing musicians – some good friends of LVU, while others were completely new discoveries for us. We ate good food, we filled our mugs, and we even got to hang in the Sands Steel Stage pit and get some pretty cool photos of X Ambassadors. We got to see this entire community come together to celebrate music, summer, and the Lehigh Valley – and we were fortunate enough to join in.

So, with that, I personally want to thank a few people and organizations for making our first Musikfest as an organization one for the ages.

First, thank you to the team at ArtsQuest who, in addition to being SUPER supportive of LVU, take weeks out of their summer every year to ensure that you and I have a good time in downtown Bethlehem for 10 days. You all were the first folks I met when I came back to the Valley, and I look forward to working with you all for years to come.

Thank you to amazing teammates like Lisa, Ambrose and, of course, our fellow Mega Power Dustin Schoof for covering what I couldn’t. Next year, I promise that I won’t book any vacations before knowing the dates of Musikfest (not that I regret fulfilling my lifelong, bucket list dream of finally seeing my Cubs play at Wrigley Field, because that place is amazing and I WILL be going back – just not from Aug. 4-13, 2017).

Thank you to our partners at the Greater Lehigh Valley Music Association for the honor and privilege of introducing Another Day Dawns, Doubting Thoma$, The Cherrybombs, and Social Call at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards Rock Showcase on Aug. 7. This night was easily a highlight of 2016 so far, both for LVU and for me personally. We can’t wait to work more with you to create opportunities, large and small, for everyone on the music scene.

Also, special thanks to Lisa and my wonderful girlfriend, Meg, for volunteering their time to LVU at the event and believing in this hare-brained scheme of mine.

Thank you to all of the musicians, who use their talents to make Musikfest and, as always, the Lehigh Valley’s music scene what it is. Without you, there would be no ‘Fest or LVU, and this place would be a lot less vibrant.

Finally, thank you, the readers, for making last week by far the most successful week in LVU history. We shattered records for page views and unique visitiors during our Musikfest coverage, and it’s because you all care so much about your music scene. We couldn’t do it without your support.

#ThanksMusikfest, for being you. See you in 2017!

I Want to See Your Belly Dance!

If you know that phrase,  you are familiar with Igor and the Red Elvises, a light-hearted, foot-stomping, hand-waiving, finger-pointing satirical band that started in Russia. This energetic and rebellious musical group combine a multitude of instruments at various performances including the clarinet, saxophone, flute, and banjo, just to name a few. According to the band’s website, their “unique brand of humor combined with guitar based rock’n’roll makes audiences want to sing, dance, scream and shout.”

What I saw on a hot and humid Friday evening at Musikfest was nothing short of incredible. Igor and the Red Elvises always deliver, no matter how much they evolve throughout their 20 plus years of touring. The photos and video give a little insight into this odd, fun, wacky, and talented band. Enjoy!

(By the way, forgive the quality of the photos; they were taken on my smartphone with little control of exposure, but you’ll get the vibe of the evening.)

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