Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lynette Williams and This Is Not Radio at Joe's Pub

   New York is my home and, as much as I belittle the city for its horrific smell in the summer and its taxi driver's less than ideal driving abilities, I do love it and hope that it can one day reclaim its rightful position as capitol of the music world. The only way its going to do that is with its residents' help. 

  Here's your first mission.

  Everyone here should know by now how much I love Lynette Williams' music. Anyway, she is hosting a showcase for some amazingly talented artists who are all a part of the Williams founded community This is Not the Radio at the legendary Joe's Pub this Friday, January 2nd. Tickets aren't that bad, maybe 3-4 of those expensive latte's you all guzzle like the free water you get at restaurants, and you'll be supporting an amazing, completely holistic arts community that really takes the ideas that I have always supported- the union between arts and fans in a community setting- and brings them to life. 

Founded in 2012 by the amazing Lynette Williams, This is Not the Radio, or TINTR, is a community of musicians trying to connect fans and musicians. What's great is that these aren't individuals looking to fall into the cookie cutter mainstream norm. They are making music that they want to make without compromising their values as musicians and artists.

Before I go on and on about the relationship between musicians and fans, I'm just going to leave the link for the tickets here and the lovely Facebook event page. If you want more info on This is Not Radio, check out their website

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Defense of Green Day: Why They Deserve to Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Why You Shouldn't Make Them Feel Bad About It

In Defense of Green Day: Why They Deserve to Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Why You Shouldn't Make Them Feel Bad About It

Okay, so, we can all admit that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not the most credible establishment in the music world. Actually, arguably every lauded award is not considered credible to the music snobs of the world. But to put people down for being praised and recognized for their contributions to some scene- music, literature, film, etc.- just screams of jealousy and feelings of inferiority. It's like people are compensating for their own insecurities when they mock people for their successes. 

Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2015 was announced, and Green Day, Lou Reed, and Joan Jett were among those recognized. That's amazing. These are all acts that pushed barriers, redefined youth culture, and led to formation of so many other artists. The fact that Green Day in particular is being called out, once again, for being sell outs just shows how people quickly forget just how much others contribute to the world they live in.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music, Its Meaning, and, yeah, a The 1975 Review

The 1975 Enchanted and Entranced Fans at The Starland Ballroom 12/14/14
Photo by Tonianne Bellomo

I swear to all of you, they are not the only band I go to see live; they just decided it was a brilliant idea to be in my neck of the woods quite often in the last six months, and I was not making the Great Kings of Leon Mistake this time (I had the opportunity to see KOL twice with the Secret Machines back in '05 when they were on their Aha Shake Heartbreak Tour, but I only went once and now they're not the best band and their tickets cost more than my life). Oh, that Great Kings of Leon mistake- it's been costing me a serious amount of money on tickets ever since. It's not like it's a bad thing to watch the lovely Manchester lads and I even dragged my little sister to her first general admission concert to catch the December 14 show at Sayreville's Starland Ballroom.

So glad I did.

Matty Healy, 12/14/14
Photo by Tonianne Bellomo

The 1975 were even better Sunday than they were back on December 5. It seems Matty Healy has revived himself a bit (still seemed tired, poor thing, but he's been on the road for forever so I'm not blaming him) and was his chatty, energetic self again. Coming out to a deafening cheer, Healy and co. jumped right into "The City" and then, one of my personal faves, "Milk." They played the same set I saw them with the week before, but it all felt new and fresh, a hard feat to accomplish. Healy is a born showman who has found a balance between chatting with the crowd and performing songs. He also knows how to use the lighting to his benefit.

You know my feelings on this band, and, based on the amount of photos I took this time (1,229, a bit over 200 of which are found here), you can tell I thought they were stellar. I'm not here to gush anymore than I have in the past (NYC 12/5/14 and Baltimore, MD 6/5/14). I'm here to talk about how Healy brought up something that I hadn't really put much thought into before but is rather pertinent to any form of art, particularly one as expressive as music.

If you're a fan of The 1975, you know their music is personal. Healy has often described it as a sort of diary for him. A lot of bands and other artists would describe their body of work as diaries of sorts. Writers, for example, find a sick sense of catharsis when they write loosely about events that they themselves experienced. Healy is no different.
Matty Healy and Adam Hann, 12/14/14
Photo by Tonianne Bellomo

The thing is, though, that sometimes these things that are created lose their original meaning for the artists.

Sunday night, Healy shared that feeling when he was launching into what he calls his favorite song, "Falling for You." He said that they have been on the road for so long and that he's not sure what the songs mean anymore. But he went on to say that we know what they mean, that the fans have the meaning.

I think that he really presented two incredibly interesting ideas that people just don't seem to address when it comes to art.

Sometimes meanings change for the artists. Sometimes, they lose the meaning and can't really place it anymore. Think about it: maybe you a write a note to yourself ages ago in a journal and then come back to it. It doesn't make sense or maybe it means something completely different to you. Art is the same way. Artists grow and change just as any other person does and, therefore, the meaning their art takes for themselves is going to change or become obliterated. I, for one, have a ton of writing that was probably quite meaningful to me when I was in the moment, but some of those meanings have changed and some have even lost all meaning to me.

It's only natural that he's not sure what the meanings of these songs are anymore. They're morphing for him and he's entering a different stage of his life. What I really latched onto, though, was this idea of the fans capturing the meaning. Really, he called the crowd a giant time capsule. In a sense, it is the fans that preserve the meaning like a time capsule of sorts, one that holds onto everything and protects it, even when the original owner is off changing. Savvy? It's a really interesting idea. I mean, fans all have their own interpretations of the works. I'm sure "Me" means something incredibly different to my fifteen year old sister than it does for me, but even those meanings have weight.

What Healy did was put the onus of meaning on the fans. He is giving those songs over to the fans to hold onto, to apply meaning to at their will. Why? Because those songs will never mean the same thing to him as they did when he first wrote them and performed them, but, to us, they will always hold some special meaning. It's a sort of transition of ownership that I really find incredible to think about.

That transition is palpable in the crowd, particularly for the fans not there just to see Healy change his shirt on stage (he came out in a sweater and leather jacket only to change into an open shirt a few songs in; and, let me tell you, my ears are still ringing from all the screams). He is basically handing over the meanings to the crowd and telling them to have them, to take the meanings and make them their own. There's a real connection between The 1975 and the fans and it doesn't feel as disingenuous as it does with a lot of bands I've seen. Healy's incredibly earnest when he puts on his performances and really does want to connect to people in a way that transcends all socially constructed differences.

Healy and co. perfected their performance the other night, keeping the energy going and really driving home that this was a shared experience rather than viewer and performer. It was probably their best performance out of the three times I've seen them and I'm sure they are only going to mature and grow as artists with their upcoming second album.

If you want to check out the photos from Dec. 14, head over to my Flickr page.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The 1975 Creates Worlds and Conquers NYC

Cloud of Cameras at Terminal 5
(all photos by Tonianne Bellomo)

    Oh, yes, there was a cloud of cameras and phones hovering above the crowd at Terminal 5 last night, December 5th, for The 1975's second night in New York. Granted, it was infuriating when I was trying to get shots for the blog but, no matter, I stuck my camera in between arms and hands to get a few shots for you (try 717, 157 of which are on a Flickr account for your perusal). The 1975 have created quite a cult following and, while the majority of the fans in the crowd last night were probably no older than seventeen, the band has a broad fan base ranging from the assumed demographic (14-18) to even people in their fifties. 

  This was the second time I've seen the band and I'm heading over to Jersey next Sunday to catch them at the Starland. They've earned my respect for not only their showmanship- singer Matt Healy is a cross between David Bowie and Mick Jagger with a bit of Jack Sparrow swagger- but for the world they have created for their fans, a world that, I wager, has drawn many an older than the common teenage, lusting on Healy age group to the band's hordes.

  Not since My Chemical Romance has a band created a world for its fans to live in. I'm talking about referencing other artists, sticking to a set aesthetic for a touring cycle, suggesting a style of clothing, and even introducing high literature for the illiterate masses- Healy mentioned Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata in a tweet over the summer and many of the students I tutor who are fans of his tried to read it; no one reads that novella except serious literature students. I was impressed. The band is dedicated to creating a universe for its fans to inhabit, giving them a place that transcends racial, age, and sexual barriers, a place that feels safe and familiar for them. 

  Now, I'm not sure how many of the teens there last night realized this but what Healy and co. have done is provide them with a sonic safe haven. Whether the screaming hordes noticed it or not, they were drawn to him like moths to flames in an almost cult fashion.

  The band backs up its rather lofty aesthetic with an energizing set that runs the gamut from dance until you die tracks to smooth, atmospheric ballads that transmit Healy's emotions to the crowd. Healy himself is an undeniable force, an intellectual who honestly knows how to control a group of people.  He had the audience in his hands last night, creating a cathartic yet genuine experience for everyone there. 

Healy Holding Court

     From their incredible intro and starter song, "The City," to the encore when they performed the highly emotional "Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You" amongst fan favorites "Robbers," "Chocolate," and "Sex," Matt Healy, George Daniel, Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald, and latest edition, saxaphonist John Waugh, had the crowd latching onto their every move and word.

John Waugh Closing Out the Main Set

  I've written about their ability to perform before when I saw them exactly six months before this concert, back in June in Baltimore, and I didn't think they could get better- I was wrong. There was something more confident about them this time around, something more commanding. These are definitely guys who know what they want, have begun to truly define themselves, and who realize the impact they can make with their music. They kept the energy up at all times and then built up the tension and the emotion for the more somber tracks such as "Me." They are truly mastering the art of making a setlist- leading the fans all the way up emotionally just to drop them down and grab them before they hit rock bottom.

   The band is incredible in more ways than one- they're smart; they're incredible musicians; they're passionate; and, most importantly, nothing feels disingenuous with them. At the end of My Chemical Romance's career, who I mentioned before as an act that created a world for its fans, they began to feel contrived and that all the details they put into their work were nothing but trite; they lost touch with what they were creating and were just following their track record of creating pseudo rock operas. So far, Healy and co. haven't gone that route and hopefully they won't. They announced at the show that they were starting work on their second album, much to the approval of the roaring fans; with any luck, the band will remain as genuine and true to its art as it has been since its conception.

Matty Healy and George Daniel

   As of right now, the band is on the right track, sticking to its guns and not compromising its integrity for something as silly as a Grammy Nomination. And, hell, even One Direction hasn't gotten a nod yet so, really, no one knows what those big whigs want. It didn't seem to bother Healy that night. As he said, The 1975 isn't an industry band, it's a fan band, and it was no where more apparent than in that crowd Friday night. 

-Tonianne Bellomo
All photos by Tonianne Bellomo