Joyce Manor vs. Stage Diving

Read: Alt Press – Joyce Manor shame stage-diver at show

Read: Alt Press – Joyce Manor frontman calls out another stage-diver during show

I’m curious what people think about this.

Is this not similar to what Kathleen Hanna did calling girls to the front?

I happen to think it is.

A lot of people are giving Joyce Manor a lot of shit for being “anti-stage diving” saying things like, “it’s part of the scene and you can’t take it out”, “don’t be in a band if you don’t want this shit to happen” and “JM sucks anyway” – Blah, blah, blah.

But you know what? They’re the band. And they make the rules when they’re on stage. It is a matter of respect (to the band and your fellow concert mates) and personal responsibility. People get hurt and it’s not pretty.

A few years ago, I saw Bayside at Irving Plaza. My friend and I were talking to a girl before their set. She might’ve been 4″10′ and a 100 lbs wet. But she was a huge fan of the band and wanted to see them up close. Once they began, we lost her in the pit and didn’t see her again. That is, until after the show by the stage door. Turns out she dislocated her knee and had to call an ambulance because she couldn’t fucking walk.

Even though it’s unpopular, I give Joyce Manor a lot of credit because not only is it about time someone said something about this, but they’re sticking up for something they believe it despite the status quo or giving in to what everyone else thinks. 9 times out of 10, I guarantee a lot of fans who end up getting hurt in the pit are women – which then discourages them to get up close and be involved in the show. I know because it’s happened to me.

I almost died in a pit about 4 years ago. And this is no exaggeration. I really thought I was going to die. I was probably in the middle of the crowd (not even up close – which now I come to realize that’s probably the safest place you can be: either all the way in the back or all the way up front, on the barricade), I had just turned 20, and I’m short. I think I’m about 5″1′. But my favorite band (Saves The Day) was playing and I felt absolutely compelled to get in there with a bunch of other die-hard fans and be a part of it – so I jumped in. I was fine until a couple songs in and the band picked up the tempo to an older track of theirs that everybody loved. I was pushed back with such force I couldn’t stop it, or get out. I immediately fell backwards and it was worse than a rip current. It wasn’t water I was in, it was people, and my limbs were flailing everywhere beyond my control, bending; I was being crushed. Over the music I screamed for help and held up my hands, hoping someone would pull me out. Lucky for me, someone did. I profusely thanked this angel for saving me, took a deep breath, and after the song ended, I squeezed my way out. I didn’t go in a pit for about 3 years after that happened – out of fear.

I’ve also seen people get hurt crowd surfing. I saw a show at Six Flags my freshman year of high school. Some guy was crowd surfing towards the front and there must have been some miscommunication or something, and he got dropped – hard. Probably from about 5 feet up. It was a hard fall. And I watched him just lay there, unable to do anything. Because what do you do? You can’t reach him, you can’t talk to him or help him get out. I’ve been kicked in the face, pushed and shoved at shows. And yeah, you can say it’s part of the scene and that this shit happens all the time – because it does. But what about the women (and non-“macho” guys) that want to get up close and see their favorite bands? What happens to them? Should they just not come? Sit out and feel non-included their whole life just because of their size? What kind of scene is that where the community you’re part of doesn’t give a shit about your well-being? We should be more friendly, supportive, check on each other and make sure we’re okay.

I’ve also been to shows where the pit/crowd surfing/stage diving experience has been great and not a problem namely, Motion City Soundtrack and The Julie Ruin. The vibe was different. I didn’t feel like I was fighting for air just to stand.

Joyce Manor isn’t even a band I would imagine stage-diving to (at least when it comes to Never Hungover Again). They’re a great band with good music, but the vibe is just not there for that kind of thing. This is a conversation that needs to be had and admire Joyce Manor for sticking to their guns and addressing this issue.

When the band you’re seeing is asking you to do something, whether it’s clapping your hands or requesting you not stage-dive, you should oblige – Especially when it’s something positive and potentially helpful to the show and/or the rest of the audience.

But what do I know? You be the judge.

Bottle Up And Explode!

A friend of mine on Facebook just shared this, and since it was less than 3 minutes long I figured it was sufficient enough for my attention. Is that weird? The way out mind works, that is. If it had been 5 minutes long, I’m not sure if I would have been willing to commit. But what the fuck am I saying? This is Elliott Smith we’re talking about.

I’ve been a huge Elliott Smith fan for about 3 years now. I had heard a few of his songs before but didn’t really get the bug until a few years later – my sophomore year of college specifically.

I fell in love with Figure 8 first. Damn, what an album. Almost every song is pure gold. And after Figure 8 I became obsessed with XO, specifically “Waltz #1”. I would listen to that song over and over and over and over and just cry in my room. I was at the tail-end of getting over someone, and it was the perfect hemlock to aid in my misery.

There are moments on XO that are sweet, some introspective, and others that are downright edgy. That’s probably one of the reasons I like it so much; It’s so varied and different. The songwriting is impeccable, and the lyrics feel just out of reach of full comprehension.

I love Elliott’s performance here because it is so edgy. He’s crying out, more vocally aggressive than usual.

Too bad I was only 8 years old when this show happened

That’s why it pains me a little to go to Irving Plaza and other venues I know Elliott played. There’s a sense of history and legend there that I was just too young to have any knowledge of at the time; I feel like I missed out maybe. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to smell the air of sweat and beer, hear the crowd jabber and imagine if this night could have felt anything like ones past.

Weatherbox @ Asbury Lanes – 7/15/2014

Brian Warren

“Every time we headline a show, I’m almost confident no one’s gonna show up,” confesses Weatherbox frontman Brian Warren in between songs.

The crowd looks around and lightly chuckles. It’s hard to believe the thought even crosses his mind. For a dark and stormy Tuesday night, Asbury Lanes holds a sizeable crowd. Everyone is standing shoulder-to-shoulder, eagerly singing along, witnessing in dumbstruck amazement the rhythmic complexity and melodious lines Weatherbox is notoriously known for delivering without fail. Their newest album, Flies In All Directions is an absolute must-listen. Dikembe’s Steven Gray has already termed it, “the album of the decade”.

A mid-July evening in Asbury Park is likely to encounter boardwalk nightlife, beach-goers, and other summertime revelers – but not tonight. Outside it’s bleak and desolate. Lightning repetitively strikes the sky, thunder rolls one boom after another. Beyond the door is a steady remainder of a dissipating torrential downpour, just beginning to slow down from monsoon-like proportions. What were gales of wind, perhaps strong enough to carry someone away to the edge of the coastline and deposit them into the surf, are now dying down to light ocean breezes.

But despite the slightly foreboding, yet fading Day After Tomorrow vibe outside, NJ locals D’Arcy kick off the night, warming up the crowd with throaty yells, guitar solos, and feedback aplenty, all steeped in a 90s Grunge reeducation.

Next up are Asbury natives, Ghost House. Though reminiscent of The Wonder Years, frontman Zach West holds his own as he and guitarist Howie Cohen exchange vocals and sideways glances.

Dikembe3When Dikembe hits the stage, the vibe of the room noticeably changes. The crowd
quickly shuffles closer with rapt attention. After sorting through some minor technical difficulties (frontman Steven Gray’s guitar is uncooperative tonight, prompting him to borrow another from Ghost House), the lads tune up, drummer David Bell removes his shirt, and Dikembe begins. The Gainesville, FL quartet’s new record (Mediumship) is officially out. They play some new songs off it including “24 Karats”, “Gets Harder” and “Donuts In a Six Speed” where many times it appears bassist Randy Reddell’s hands are going to come flying right off from the rapid intensity of his playing. Dikembe’s set is nothing short of electrifying. The heart and soul of their performance is palpable, spawning many
to move about in half-dance, half-head nod. They close out with a powerful cover of “Where Is My Mind” that the Pixies themselves would have little choice but to bow down in humble appreciation and respect. Their departure leaves the crowd hungry for more.

Weatherbox2Before dominating the evening, Weatherbox approaches the stage tweaking their instruments and amps, fiddling with pedalboard settings, getting the tone just right. They immediately launch into “Pagan Baby”, the first track off Flies In All Directions. Brian Warren brazenly sings out: “Baked into the crust, I’m comfy, reading eulogies / You heard I was a nice boy; Well, you didn’t hear it from me”. The rest of the night rolls along without a hitch as Warren leads into more new songs like “Kickflips” and “Drag Out”, complete with the album-identical nearly neverending ending, the crowd screaming in unison, “Maybe magic don’t come back, don’t come back / COME BACK, COME BACK”. At this point, Warren is visibly pouring sweat, his greasy, tangled hair becoming more matted and knotted with each heart-heavy sway. Throughout tWeatherbox3he performance, he bounces between a black and red Telecaster and a semi-hollow body Epiphone with untrimmed strings flailing. He looks like a madman possessed, his troubled soul wrung out to dry. For not having played on the album, Warren’s accompanying band is pretty close to perfect, laying down every lick, fill, and riff with uncanny precision. His eyes wander around the room on “Dark All Night For Us” softly singing, “Don’t suffocate your lungs, hoping to be forever young / You can’t make art in a vacuum state or become something great alone / You need a friend to depend on”. Towards the end of their set, Dikembe’s Steven Gray gets on stage one last time to sing Andy Hull’s (Manchester Orchestra, Bad Books) verse on “The Devil and Whom”, and to the delight of more seasoned Weatherbox fans, the band closes out with “Broken Glowsticks” off EP, Follow the Rattle of the Afghan Guitar.

When Warren sings, “You won’t find a band like mine”, the room nods along in rhythmic testament with knowledge of its inherent truth. Weatherbox is a jeweled ship in an ocean of mediocrity with the ability to quell any storm, so that all may come and bear witness.

Dikembe7Dikembe6 Dikembe1

Weatherbox_Drums AJ_Weatherbox

Of Course Lana Del Rey is Controversial

Read: Vox – Here’s Why Lana Del Rey is so controversial

When I first listened to Lana Del Rey, it was my junior year of college. I was sitting in my Advanced Electronic and Computer Music class and my professor put on the music video for “Blue Jeans”.

We’d have an assignment later on that week to analyze the production of “Video Games” and read an detailed article about it, written Lana-Del-Rey-Ultraviolence-ThatGrapeJuiceup by Sound on Sound. If I remember correctly, throughout the whole class time we watched an assortment of music videos talking about sounds, panning, style, song structure maybe? Just basically bouncing ideas and thoughts around in a communal analysis of what we were hearing (and seeing). Lana wasn’t on my radar. That day was the first time I had ever heard her name.

I’ve always prided myself in thinking I listen to a lot of diverse music. I make a point to do so; All genres, from all different time periods, from current Top40 Pop (which I loathe) to Delta Blues. It all has educational value to me. You can even see in my ‘Boombox‘ tab above – I meticulously keep track of what I listen through via, list artists I plan on checking out (“Playlist on Deck”), am logging my favorite and what I consider to be the best albums of 2014, and am eager to hear your thoughts and opinions as to what else I should be listening to. I have a very open mind when it comes to this stuff. I don’t want to miss out a song or artist or album that could change my life.

“Blue Jeans” was slow. A lot slower than the music that was out at the time. And I was completely put off by Lana’s singing. What the hell was this soft falsetto bullshit? Where was her emotion? What a fake, a phony.

But the collaged music video was enticing and the lyrics, very mysterious. There was a storyline there – definitely heartbreak of some kind. Who was this girl, really?

As I delved into my assignment that weekend to analyze the production of “Video Games” and listened over and over and over with my studio headphones, I became very aware of the goosebumps and chills that spread throughout my body with each listen. I suddenly couldn’t deny it anymore: I’d warmed up to Lana – and considerably so. I began to really fall in love with it all; The whole package – vocals, lyrics, production, instrumentation. I realized its perfection. It was beautiful. My heart was telling me so, dragging me into her hypnotic vortex of mystery.

Through my own undeniable emotional responses, I began to notice how much feeling was actually being expressed through Lana’s sad, low, gentle, cool-as-a-cucumber vocal delivery. I related to it; That kind of apathetic, roll-with-it attitude you get when you’re stoned, drowning head-over-heels in unrequited love, somehow loving every moment of your misery.

I had a dawning realization that you didn’t have to be a Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera to show the audience you were conveying emotion through a performance. (Not exactly the same vein, but think of Elliott Smith) It’s in what Lana wasn’t blatantly expressing that was being expressed. That’s the best way I can describe it. When you get it, you get it. You feel it. It’s an affirmation. It’s seeing something that was never there before that was in front of your eyes the whole time…Or in this case, in front of your ears.

I ended up buying Born To Die on vinyl, becoming smitten with every song on the album, practically kicked myself for not getting tickets in time to see her perform at Irving Plaza that year, and have been a fan ever since that day I listened to “Video Games” 100 times in a row, trying to convert friends into believers ever since I recognized the absolute beauty in the heartbroken, melancholy, troubled, Hollywood starlet persona that is Lana Del Rey.

Lana Del Rey is controversial because she is a unnatural beauty, she is not a rags to riches story, but is a daughter of a wealthy father portraying lanadelrey_png_630x535_q85a character; She brings a sense of old Hollywood values and a black and white sentimentality to her music. I suppose it’s ironic that I view her as authentic; I’m not sure where Elizabeth Grant ends and Lana Del Rey begins. Where does fact meet fiction? Perhaps we’ll never know. Perhaps we’re not supposed to. Either way, I cannot simply dismiss Lana because she is different from the rest of the Pop swill we’ve been fed for so long. She is a cool breeze of fresh air and a welcome change to contemporary Pop music (which if I may say so, has been becoming increasingly stale).

Lana is changing everything we think we know about the Pop landscape; She’s playing with our expectations. Lana is the embodiment of a post-modern popstar – Reappropriating past styles and sounds and integrating them into her persona. She expresses her sexuality without seeming trashy, her sadness without compromising beauty, her stories all the while keeping her honesty in tact. Though on the surface she may seem submissive and emotionless, she is actually one of the strongest acts out there today. Lana is not easily swayed; Her coolness is confidence. She exudes the atmosphere of days gone by, but is bringing something back into the present – something important.

It’s something worth listening to.


In Defense of Max Bemis

Photo Credit: Neil Visel
Photo Credit: Neil Visel


As I’ve said before, long-time fans of bands/artists tend to get very upset by change. So much so that (via the perspective of Internet and the occasional face-to-face conversation) many seem to take it personal. A handful of bands I can recall this happening to include Saves The Day, MGMT, Tokyo Police Club, The Beatles, Green Day, and Tom DeLonge’s Angels and Airwaves when blink-182 was on hiatus. (To the perspective of the diehard, now newly disgruntled fan) The music is suddenly no longer about “art” or “creation” or “artist’s self-expression”, but becomes a subject of ridicule and is dismissed simply because it is “different” from their previous material.

Here’s the deal:

As fans, it’s not fair to the artist to be so thoughtlessly critical. Stop acting so spoiled and self-centered. People grow and change. It’s a fact of Life. It’s happening to you right now. Everyone goes through different things, good times, rough patches. We meet people, maybe fall in/out of love and while involved in that thing called Life, we evolve; Ideologies blossom, maybe we develop food, drinking, and drug habits – for better or worse. Families are started or ripped apart, feelings and sentiments change. Thoughts never stop, just the subject matter changes. We stumble upon realizations, become more self-aware of beauty Life brings, or the feel the misery that accompanies it. Why should any of that ever prevent an artist (a person) for expressing themselves in any lyrical, artistic, or creative way they see fit?

Don’t you see? You’re the first to rile against the mainstream, denounce the overly controlling major labels, but when something different and unique comes to be, you reject it, demean it, ridicule it. Why? Get past your own preconceived notions and forget your friends and their opinions. Honestly come face-to-face yourself and confront the feelings said art/creation does to you? Let go of your assumptions that you “know” the singer and/or songwriter and stop hypothesizing reason why their latest work is “bad” or “not up to par” with their earlier material. What is happening inside you? Are you even mature enough to honestly confront those feelings within yourself?

What’s popular opinion isn’t always right.

If you are a true fan of any artist, you will at least give them/him/her a chance. Sorry they can’t recreate a nostalgic soundtrack to accompany your teenage high school angst. Those days have come and gone. Grow up. Look at the world around you. The thing is, it’s easy to admit you hate something. It takes real guts to admit you like something, especially something that may be considered unpopular or unworthy to others. So make sure you’re not just being a sheep and following the herd.

And I get it. I understand where fans are coming from when they say they only like a band’s “older material”. Listen to any band or artist and you can feel an huge presence of energy there. And I bet you that’s a combination of youth, the excitement of having nothing to lose and everything to gain, and the thrill of creating something for the first time. But bands can’t write about the same things for their entire career. In any business, hell – even in Nature you have to constantly change, adapt, and evolve if you want to survive.

With all that said, Max Bemis has been one of my favorite songwriters since about 2005, which was right around my freshman year of high school. I saw the music video to “Alive With The Glory Of Love” and was sucked in immediately.

Max’s lyrics and perspective have always been golden to me. I think he is the most unique songwriter and musician of I can think of. Say Anything’s discography is rife with key changes, time signature changes, and emotional dynamism ranging from screams to croons. Max has always had a very theatrical element about him in his vocal performance. His diction, emotion, and word choices have always had a Broadway musical-like quality about it (I mean that in the best way possible).

Say Anything’s latest album, Hebrews, was released to stream exclusively through Spotify around late last night/early morning. I’ve been following all the Hebrews related press probably since the album art came out. Hebrews does not have any guitars but is mostly an amalgamation of drums, live strings, and computer programming. I like that Bemis chose to do this because it was ballsy, risky, and (dare I say?) punk? By my definition it is. To me, something that is “punk” is something or someone that goes against the grain for a righteous purpose. The construct of Hebrews accomplishes this, IMO. I also think it totally works. Listening to it even inspires me as a musician to keep playing around with Pro Tools and Logic in my own musical endeavors and just create and write, no matter what the hell it is or how it’s made. It’s fun to play around with those programs and I can honestly say from a firsthand perspective that it’s fun. Also, sometimes a lot of ideas come to fruition by electronic/computer means that would not be possible to discover through writing songs with only a guitar.

In the words of Brittany Moseley from Alternative Press, the lyrical content of Hebrews ranges from “fatherhood and self-doubt to finding your religion”. Bemis also acknowledges the fans (discussed above) who think since becoming a more family-oriented individual, he isn’t the same angsty, bipolar struggling twenty-something on his previous records (spoiler alert: He’s not…and that’s okay). As a husband and now father, I believe he is coming to terms with how to view himself in these roles, not wanting to let his family down but love, protect, and be there for them. I also noticed a theme of birth/rebirth – Parallels between the birth of his daughter Lucy and perhaps the rebirth/changing of his musical-self. (Listen to “Push“).

The content of Hebrews is not only exceptional but more valuable than ever. In fact, what may be happening here is a disjuncture; A fork in the road. Though Bemis and his fanbase are getting older together (myself included), many fans are not where Bemis is right now: A new family man with self-doubt and still unanswered questions about Life, Love, and God. Those diehards you hear in the crowd shouting, “IS A REAL BOY! IS A REAL BOY!” are not in that headspace yet. They find it difficult to relate because they’re still at “misery loves company”…and they’re lonely now more than ever. Maybe they’ll get there eventually.

I’ve always viewed songs as having a mythological quality. Lyrics are essential for us as listeners to absorb so we may find ourselves in the world. Do you remember the first time music hit you the hardest? it was probably in your early teen years, right? And that makes sense because you were in such a early developmental stage and something came along and it just got you. Music contains messages that are waiting to be released into our minds so we may have a point of reference of emotion, feeling, sentiment, storytelling. At the end of the day, we must hold on the realization that we’re all cut from the same cloth and it’s the beauty of music that unites us and in a strange way, seems to understand us. So next time your favorite band puts out an album and it goes against the grain, don’t be so quick to judge the unfamiliar. Embrace it for all it’s worth.

Hebrews by Say Anything is officially available June 10th via Equal Vision Records.

Stream it on Spotify here: