Saturday, April 30, 2011

SunFest Day 3: Sound Mix Abandons Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman deserved better.

The sound mix for Allman's Friday Night SunFest show was as muddy as the Delta. And, at times, Allman's distinctive vocals were buried so far down in the mix that they only could be found with a Geiger counter.

Once again, Gregg Allman deserved better. And so did the audience.

The venerable bluesman is touring to support his first new album in more than a decade, Low Country Blues. If you don't have this album, stop right now and buy it. It is required music.

Allman and his six-piece band covered songs from the Allman Brothers, his past solo work the latest album during the 80-minute set. The band started ragged with the aforementioned sound mixing debacle and with its own internal struggles with playing together on Allman's latest work. Halfway through the set, the band found its footing and ended the show with a rousing version of "Statesboro Blues." Percussionist Floyd Miles spelled Allman of his vocal duties for two funky Chicago blues tunes, which were one of the highlights of the set.

Recovering from his liver transplant from last June, Allman was playing his seventh show in the past 10 days and he was showing his 63 years. Allman has just started a younger man's tour for the next five months. The tour will make stops at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Bonnaroo and the European festival circuit. This Sunday, the band will be in Memphis for the Beale Street Blues Festival.

With that wonderfully whiskey baritone, Allman is all bluesman. I only hope to hear him again when sound mix arises to the quality of the performer.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm Famous For These Glasses Baby

Cee-Lo Green has had a rough time, getting booed off Coachella doesn't go down easy. I'm sure having a number one pop song and a Grammy nomination ease the pain. I'm talking about the brilliant NSFW hit that we've mentioned many times before on this very blog. As the crowds gathered, we all had the same question on our lips... well my mom did because she made a five dollar bet that he wouldn't. Will he sing those forbidden words?

The answer to the five-dollar question was no, well kinda. I should probably back up. As Cee-Lo made us wait around twenty minutes after his starting time, we joked about what was keeping him. Marty said that he was backstage watching the walls drip. As the lights dimmed and Cee-Lo's all-girl band took the stage, the man himself came on the P.A. introducing himself as "The Lady Killer." He started off with his earlier songs when he was still with rap group Goodie Mob, who joined him on stage, as Cee-Lo paced in the background providing a line or two as his homies spit their rhymes.

But as they were ushered off stage Cee-Lo started to go into soul - where he really shines. His voice really is an amazing thing to listen to, even on CD, which is probably why he's judging on a show called The Voice. He quickly changes between styles from the soul powered "Crazy" to a very rock version of "Run." Cursing like a sailor all the way through Cee-Lo brought hit after hit to the people of Palm Beach.

At the end, though, people were still expecting the song they came for, and he knew it. Kicking it out as his finale, he relied on the audience to sing the oh-so essential part, never actually uttering the phrase. The crowd didn't care and who really should? Despite that, it's still got a killer hook. Even better, he ends it with an awesome and seamless transition into "Rock The Casbah," mash up artists, get on it!

Cee-Lo delivers an impressive show for anyone. Going from rap to soul to rock, he'll deliver something for everyone. As we left the show, my mom was handed five dollars. Damn technicalities.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

SunFest Day 1: Avett Brothers and the Lyrics that Sing

By Emily J. Minor
I live with two grown men who are gaga over music. Our son, now 20, was getting an music allowance back way back in early middle school. Forget cash for taking out the garbage, how about another Gorillaz download? My husband - Mr. After Hours Music Proprietor Marty Minor himself - has resisted the iPhone for one simple reason: he couldn’t put all his music on it.

This might seem like one of those “blessings” all the hyper-happy like to talk about.

The Minors are so hip! We’re all so groovy. Yet, here I am, paying the monthly iTunes account, stuck in some sort of unsettling music limbo.

I am not resistant to retro; I embrace it.

Consequently, their music is way over my head.
My under-the-counter kitchen radio is set on NPR and the local oldies station. (Well, station choices in West Palm Beach are to blame for the latter, but that’s a whole other - what do they call this again? - blog post.)

It might be spring, 2011, but I still like James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and really old Linda Ronstadt.Oh! And The Avett Brothers. I love The Avett Brothers, big time.

The Avett Brothers - two of them are really brothers, which makes me happy for their mom - are adorable. They are full of energy. They appear physically fit, which leads me to believe they eat their vegetables. And they gave a REALLY, REALLY FUN show Wednesday at SunFest. I drank three beers in their honor!

The best thing about The Avett Brothers isn’t the banjo or the bass or that one guy who plays the cello almost like it’s a guitar.

It’s their lyrics.

Scott Avett and his little brother, Seth, can write. Really write.

Funny lyrics. Happy lyrics. Lyrics that make you cry.

Somber lyrics. Sensitive lyrics. Lyrics that make you sing.

I hate to be too old-fashioned, but I think The Avett Brothers are a little bit John Prine and a little bit They Might Be Giants and a little bit Barenaked Ladies and a whole lot of them, all rolled up into something fresh and new and fun.

Every time I listen to them, I just feel happy. And Wednesday night, it was especially nice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

SunFest's Here! Time To Find A New Band

The roadies are here.  They are setting up the multiple stages as there are only a few hours left until SunFest begins on Wednesday night.  

While most of the well-meaning music fans have mapped out their headliners (After Hours will be visiting The Avett Brothers, Cee-Lo and Gregg Allman), there a multitude of up-and-coming bands and regional acts to check out.  Hell, that is the beauty of a music festival - to blithely stumble upon a band that becomes a favorite. 

During a sugar-like craving for sweet, pop music, two, early opening acts - both based in South Florida - have piqued the interests here at AF HQ.  

The product of an Irish schoolteacher and her musician father from India, Sarah Packiam plays a sultry acoustic pop that includes flourishes of Irish folk and Indian music.  Now based in Miami Beach, Packiam is now recording her debut album of indie world folk in Miami's Cutting Cane Studio.  Packiam is opening the show Thursday night (5:15 p.m.) at the main Bank of America stage. 

The southern-infused pop rock of The Gallery is as catchy as one of their hook-laden songs. Formed in Massachusetts, the quartet has been based in West Palm Beach for the past three years.  The unsigned band just released their first EP and continues to tour around the country.  The band has the unenviable slot of 12:15 p.m. Saturday as the first band of the day at the Tire Kingdom Stage.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ready for the Breakout: A Chat with Tristan Clopet and His Brain

After Hours favorite and Miami singer-songwriter Tristan Clopet has found his voice - and his groove - with his new single, "A Chat With My Brain."  With that, Clopet will be finding a much larger audience in 2011.  

Clopet's previous recordings are a pleasant and intoxicating mix of blue-eyed soul and rock/funk thumpers.  On this new single, and the new album coming out next month, Clopet has found his indie rock groove and it's terrific.  With the song and the album, the Toronto-born singer worked with indie producer Raymond Richards, who gained well-deserved praise for last year's superb Local Natives debut.  

The song, driven by piano and drums, creates enough room for Clopet's vocals to soar.  The chorus features a great, addictive hook. It is one of the best indie pop songs you'll hear this year. I have been humming it for the past week.  

With the release of the new single, available for download on iTunes, Clopet took some time to chat about his music, the recording process and creativity's breeding ground.  

After Hours: The new song, "A Chat With My Brain" is more of a straight-ahead Indie rock sound than your past recordings.  Was that a conscious decision to go in that direction or more of an organic process?
Tristan Clopet: It was a conscious decision to try to be more organic in my songwriting. To really extract from a natural place. I felt like I've really come into my own on this record. Feels really good.

AF: How did you hook up with Raymond Richards and how has that been?
TC: We were fortunate to have a few options for this album. One day I was thinking about our immediate future and had Local Natives on in the background. It suddenly occurred to me that the sound of the new songs were very similar to the feel of Gorilla Manor. So I got on the internet and looked up who did it, emailed him and he really loved the demos. We talked on the phone, hit it off and the rest is history.

AF: After two EPs, this is your first album coming out in May.  How has the recording process changed for you?
TC: You know, not a lot. Obviously, its a different animal playing with the red light on and one gets better at it over time but the process itself is pretty much the same. I value the opinons of everyone in the room and I encourage a really healthy, lighthearted mood. Creativity really needs a healthy breeding ground. Great performances tend to come in between belly laughs.

AF:What was the best show you saw during the past year?

TC: Beach House at the Fillmore was great.  As was Foster the People at SXSW.  The latter is a new band that should be making some noise this coming year. 

Clopet will be touring this summer in support of the album.  Keep tuned for upcoming dates.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vinyl Dreams on Record Store Day

I received my education from Haffa's Fine Used Records in Athens, Ohio.

In that small, grimy basement store, I learned the passion, joy, despair and the cold hard realities of buying and selling used vinyl.  I discovered Miles Davis, Tom Waits and the cutout bin there.  

It was a beautiful way to kill that hour between classes and to watch, in fascination, as the used vinyl was sorted for rejection or acceptance for a quarter or two.  The best records were bought for a buck. I sold vinyl there when I needed money.  Spent it there when I had it. 

For me, Haffa's was a portal.  A transmitter linked to a much wider world.  A world of musicians playing in smoky clubs and sweaty, downtown bars  - and all the excitement, rebellion and freedom it represented to me.  I wanted to drink it all in - like it was coming from a fire hose.  It made me want to leave my cave and take a look around.  I can't thank Haffa's enough for that. 

I will be paying my respects to Top Five Records in Lake Worth - a great, vintage vinyl and CD place. Cash only.  Singer-songwriter and Local Hero John Ralston will kick off the full day of in-store performances at 1 p.m.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chocolate Drops Hit Florida, Tropical Heatwave

Unbelievably cool band and NPR favorite, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, are headed to the Sunshine State next month for stops in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando before helping headline WMNF's 30th Tropical Heatwave extravaganza.

The truly eclectic Chocolate Drops play traditional, black banjo/fiddle music with a definitive modern twist.  The result is damn near magic.  The Boone, North Carolina trio update traditional music with soul, blues, and, at times, a beatbox. Fiddle Rhiannon Giddens, classically trained in opera, touches your soul whenever she sings.  

The trio plays the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale on May 11th.  The next night, they head to Mickey City to rock The Plaza Theater.

On Saturday, May 14, the Drops will help headline perhaps the best Tropical Heatwave lineup evah in Tampa for the legendary WMNF community radio station.   The Carolina Chocolate Drops open up for Cracker (?!?!?!!!!) at the El Pasaje Plaza.  After Hours' heroes, Lauris Vidal and The Whigs, also help round out a solid lineup of great music of a warm, Florida night.