screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Tag: The Middle East Upstairs

Introducing… ColorGrave

The cover photo for ColorGrave’s debut single, “Fever Dreams” shows a couple’s bed, two pillows side by side. Both literal and symbolic, it is a place of intimacy, but also a place where one surrenders to the wills of Morpheus and the power of media-induced temptations on the sleep-liberated mind. One’s conscious desire to remain faithful to one’s partner does battle with subconscious fantasies and buried desires. Such is the subject matter of this moody and pensive Boston band’s first release.

“Fever, let me be, don’t fill my sleep with others, she’s what I’ve always dreamed of.”

Mind you, I use the word “moody” is the best possible way. There some darkness and melancholia here, but the vocals are intensely personal, inviting and enveloping like a warm blanket. ColorGrave is the duo of classically trained vocalist Thomas Morris and producer Rob Wu (drums, guitar and programming). Their blend of digital sounds with analog instruments gives the music a lush and welcoming quality. Their plans for 2015 and into the future are to release a series of singles, remixes and other content. For now, you can hear “Fever Dreams,” written and produced by ColorGrave and engineered by Eric Mitchell (NU.F.O.) on Souncloud or on Spotify.

In an interview with Michael Marotta in Vanyaland, Wu explains the inspiration:

“The song is sung from a male’s perspective and every time the chorus hits, he’s trying to remind himself to wake up and not get sucked into the fantasy — or in the figurative sense, the over sexification of America, which includes unobtainable body shapes, polish, Photoshopped faces. All that stuff isn’t real.”

Boston-area music fans will have their introduction to this promising band very soon, since ColorGrave will be performing their debut show on April 19 at The Middle East Upstairs, as part of the Lysten Boston Anniversary Show that also features Miss Geo (EP release), Casey Desmond and Connecticut band Child Actor. That’s some line-up!

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Introducing… Vikesh Kapoor

To summon the emotions from another person’s life story and personal struggles, and be able to convey everyday events that instantly evoke a sense of time, place and personality takes a special gift. When one thinks of master storytellers who touch people’s souls, names like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan come to mind. While many musicians have been inspired by Guthrie and those such as Seeger and Dylan who proudly carried the torch after him, very few have the necessary gravitas to convincingly pull it off. Folk music is a tricky animal. It’s a rare breed who can sing about the seemingly mundane life of the common man and elevate his actions and feelings to a reverent realm, without coming off as simplistic or overly sentimental. To delicately weave in a socio-political message is even trickier. Bruce Springsteen can do it. So can Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle. It’s not a long list. So when I saw Vikesh Kapoor mentioned alongside the legendary Guthrie and Dylan, and even named in The New Yorker as one of Guthrie’s natural successors, I was skeptical.

Vikesh Kapoor hails from rural Pennsylvania and did some time as a mason’s apprentice, getting a firsthand taste of blue-collar life. Upon performing at author and activist Howard Zinn’s funeral in 2010, he had an epiphany of sorts and set out to tell socially conscious and politically informed stories of everyday people. What got my attention are the songs themselves on his debut album, The Ballad of Willie Robbins (Mama Bird Recording Co.).

This is a young man with an old soul. His first effort is a concept album about working man Willie Robbins and his real-life daily struggle to not only survive but thrive, most simply and poignantly expressed in the title track. The songs are sad but also celebratory, raising the human condition to lofty heights. Other stand-out tracks are the mournful and solitary “I Dreamt Blues,” with its heart-wrenching lyrics and harmonica cry, the bittersweet banjo-tinged lament of “Bottom Of The Ladder” and the haunting “Carry Me Home,” in which his expressive voice is especially effective in carrying the wistful mood. “Forever Gone” is an absolute stunner of a song, a kind of “gypsy klezmer dirge” that seeps deep into the bones.

Kapoor is not only insightful into the human condition; he’s also quite enlightened about the art of storytelling. In a recent Interview Magazine article, he explains that although his debut album isn’t autobiographical, during the process of relating a story, one can’t help but be self-revealing. “In narrative, adding elements of fiction or stretching the truth can shed light on greater truths than just recounting something in a journalistic way.”

Upcoming Shows
w/The Melodic
04 Dec – The Saint / Asbury Park NJ
05 Dec – North Star Bar/ Philadelphia PA
06 Dec – Cafe Nine / New Haven CT
07 Dec – The Middle East (Upstairs) / Cambridge MA – Facebook event
08 Dec – Higher Ground / Burlington VT
09 Dec – Mercury Lounge / New York NY
13 Dec – Columbia City Theater / Seattle WA – w/Frank Fairfield & more

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Breaking News: Literary Luminaries Converge in Little Rock ‘n’ Roll Dive

photo by Kirsty Bennet

photo by Kirsty Bennet

featuring Dan Kennedy, Ophira Eisenberg, Ben Greenman and Christopher Monks
The Middle East (Upstairs)
Saturday, June 8, 2013
7pm (6pm doors) | $10 | ::: BUY TICKETS :::

Boston has an illustrious intellectual and literary tradition. Among those who have lived and written in and around the city are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Cambridge), Anne Bradstreet (Salem, Charlestown, Boston, Cambridge), Sylvia Plath (Boston), e.e. cummings (Cambridge), Ralph Waldo Emerson (Concord), Nathaniel Hawthorne (Salem), Robert Frost (Lawrence), Anne Sexton (Newton, Lowell, Boston, Cambridge), Jack Kerouac (Lowell), Oliver Wendell Holmes (Cambridge), Kahlil Gibran (Boston) and though Baltimore claims Edgar Allan Poe, he was in fact born in Boston. Our city also has a rich rock ‘n’ roll history: Nervous Eaters, Mission of Burma, Pixies, Morphine, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, Human Sexual Response, Willie Loco and the Boom Boom Band, Rob Zombie, Tracy Chapman, Dresden Dolls, Aerosmith, The Real Kids, Passion Pit… So it’s strangely appropriate that such a distinguished group of fertile minds would be gathering at one of our skanky rock clubs to read from their works.

Dan Kennedy

The missing link between indie rock club and high brow literature might well be New York-based writer Dan Kennedy’s 2008 memoir “Rock On”, about his marketing job at one of the music industry’s corporate monsters, Atlantic Records. He’s a contributor to GQ and McSweeney’s, and is host of The Moth storytelling podcast. His most recent novel is “American Spirit”. :: twit ::

Ophira Eisenberg

Ophira Eisenberg hosts NPR’s rambunctious weekly trivia game show, Ask Me Another, is performer and host of The Moth and has performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, VH-1, Comedy Central, E! Channel and Oxygen Network. Her writing has been featured in “I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics,” and US Weekly’s Fashion Police. This year, she released her debut memoir, “Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy”. :: twit ::

Ben Greenman

As an editor of the New Yorker and renowned author, Ben Greenman has written essays, music criticism and fiction that has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Paris Review, McSweeneys, Zoetrope: All Story and Opium. His books have included “Superbad”, “Superworse”, “A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both: Stories About Human Love” and his rock star novel, “Please Step Back”. He also contributes to the audioblog His latest work, recently released, is “The Slippage”. :: twit ::

Christopher Monks

Christopher Monks is editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and author of “The Ultimate Game Guide To Your Life”. His writing has appeared in print and online journals including The Morning News and McSweeney’s, and yes of course, he tweets as well.

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Warm Weather’s First Visit to Boston – The Middle East 5/14/12

It was an odd communion: a night of band-audience bonding, angelic harmonies and a surreal mini-musical soap opera episode. There was a relatively small but surprisingly boisterous and supportive crowd for a Monday night, and Ryan commented how it was like playing for a bunch of friends at home. I had expected the gentle melodies and bucolic harmonies from their two eps, and I certainly got that, but what I also got were some furious jams, mind-bending ethereal to thrasher mood swings, and a heaping helping of unhinged madness in the form of an over-the-top rendition of R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet Chapter Two.” The original is bizarre enough, but Warm Weather’s version, with guitarist Ryan in a long blond wig, was truly inspired and something they seemed perfectly well-suited for (what this says, I’m not sure). It was a wonderfully camp adventure, though at the same time convincing as a piece of musical theater, as these guys have the moves and the vocal chops to pull it off.

Warm Weather videos:

Bull Run / (Be My Baby) | #2 | #3 | Trapped in the Closet Chapter Two (R. Kelly)
(still getting familiar with their recordings; song titles coming… eventually)

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Boston Bands this week…

The Kristen Ford Band, Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, Lori McKenna, and Cassavettes.

The Kristen Ford Band, Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, Lori McKenna, and Cassavettes.

No fancy embellishment; just a quick rundown of some Boston-area bands of note this week, before the week’s over. Thursday is a busy night. The Kristen Ford Band is at Precinct (Union Square, Somerville) with Goli, Box Five, and School for Robots. Thursday also brings newly transplanted from Maine but now Boston local, the absolutely brilliant Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, to the Lizard Lounge, along with Angeline and Naked On Rollerskates. It also begins a three-night residency at Club Passim for folk songstress Lori McKenna. And on Saturday, Boston Americana-folk-rock favorite Cassavettes sadly performs their final show at the cozy Middle East Upstairs, joined by the Luxury and the Autumn Hollow Band.

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Boston Bands Next Week…

Amanda Palmer in Cabaret (photo by Marcus Stern), Otis Grove (photo by Arthur Shim), The Action Verbs, and wildfowl.

Amanda Palmer in Cabaret (photo by Marcus Stern), Otis Grove (photo by Arthur Shim), The Action Verbs, and wildfowl.

Welcome back to this weekly – or not so weekly – feature. This, or rather next week we have a few interesting things of note: A “Late-Night Fucking Cabaret” (yes, that’s exactly how it’s being billed) at OBERON, five Boston-area bands on one bill at the Middle East, Otis Grove’s CD Release Party at Lizard Lounge, and Cambridge-based wildfowl (that’s a band, not a bunch of birds) supporting a favorite L.A. band of mine who kinda snuck their way in…

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