This Weekend : Dragon-Con

Once again it is time for the weekend many of the weird and the wonderful await all year, Dragon-con. The con is the South east's largest and is really only second to Comic-Con now in terms of size and scope, as it continues to grow. As the geeks continue to inherit the earth, it's becoming clearer that con culture is exceeding music festivals these days in terms of numbers.

There is music on the concourse in the Hyatt throughout the day as well as full blown concerts at night. The range seems to stay in a similar compass of dancey goth , Celtic and steam-punk themed bands. There are a few exceptions to the rule this year as Nerf Herder , the band that plays the theme song to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Bella Morte, who leans more towards rock than the poppy con main stays the Cruxshadows.

Of course music is only a fraction of what happens here as stars of film and TV, share their experiences with fans on panels and fans join in on the fun allowing their imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery by dressing as them. Cosplay has now risen in popularity earning it's reality t.v. show. Dragon-con goer spare no expense often taking the bulk of the year to craft their costumes , which include Super-heroes, video game creatures, to any number of pop culture figures. Some of them are even music related as in the past Cosplayers dressed as Kiss, Guns N Roses, Daft Punk, Micheal Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Motley Crue, Ghost and King Diamond have made appearances.

A few thing Con-virgins should know are

Take Marta parking is expensive and scarce.

Pack snacks the hotels are rather pricey as well.

If there is something you want to do plan ahead and get there early, it takes time to maneuver through the growing crowds and there are lines.

Tickets for the weekend started at 140 dollars , but as the weekend progresses the daily passes drops with each day. This even is something that must be crossed off every bucket list if you are a Trekkie or not.

Album Review: Just Walden's "High Street Barton Blues"

The 70's were the glory days of piano infused pop/rock. Piano in rock was not a dirty but found  the likes of Elton John and Billy Joel ruling arenas. Just Walden would be more Elton than Joel. As they are far more adventurous in the back drops they place around these piano riffs. Their debut album "High Street Barton Blues" uses many musical colors to weave the songs into a tapestry of cohesive sounds.

Formed in 2005 this band from Austin, Texas has lucid style of piano oriented rock not unlike the Fray... who are one of my guilty pleasures,  but without all the television soundtrack melodrama. Band's like Cold Play have also heavily incorporated piano into their sound, while losing all the balls in the process, Just Walden avoid this pit fall.

Songs like "Space Cadet" has more of the 70's Elton John feel, before they jump a decade ahead and the chorus to "Hole in the Head" winks slightly  80's Genesis, but with a much more contempary take on the balladary Phil Collins over indulged in. At other times there's the more reflective feel of say the Counting Crows, though not a blues based.

They spared no expense production wise,  and rightfully so as you can't capture the warmth of a piano in mic'ed room by plugging into Pro Tools and cut and pasting. Everything sits comfortably in the mix, his voice floats atop the arrangements, without causing it sound to poppy.  Comparisons to Ben Folds could be drawn at times in some of the phrasing of the piano parts, but the lead singer / pianist is not drenching the songs in irony and scarcasm. The guitar tones captured here have an ambiance that sets this band apart from other bands of this ilk.

"Full Body Tattoo" does display some lyrical cleverness set against some really outstanding piano work. It flows really smoothly, almost too smoothly for rock music, but their sense of melody keeps them in check. They continue to float through varied dynamics and styles, yet retain their sound even when electronic elements creep into songs like "You Jumped the Boat".  The songs are written to make the most of what lead singer has to work with. His husky tenor is bright yet pleading at times.

Often contemplative this album doesn't have the darker tone of what I might normally listen, though it's touched upon on"Troubled Youth" ,  where the guitars provides the shadows in the background. The guitarists use of delay is often very post-rock ish in an Explosions in the Sky sort of way. With the interlude "Spare Keys" they even experiment with these sounds further, almost to the extent of Sigur Rios.

They pull all the collective elements that make the album work and infuse them on "Viviana Blue". This song has a more somber tone than most on here, so it's no surprise it would be my favorite from this album. The guitar and vocals create a very haunting and lonely landscape. The band wraps the album up with the instrumental "Lost Friends 2" which spotlights the indulgent tinkering with the ivories, fitting considering how they are the mortar to the bulk of the songs. Overall this is worth checking out, if you want something light hearted and fun to end the summer with. These guys write very thoughtful pop inflected rock tunes blending a broad range of influences to the canvas of sound in they work with here. Hope the second album further embracing the sonic explorations they began to delve into here.

Tonight : Bear in Heaven

Bear in Heaven brings their smooth brand of melodic indie rock into town tonight. Their singer Jon Philpot's use of melody carries a simplistic honesty that reminds you of band's like Death Cab For Cutie, ....if they had formed in the past five years  as electronic pop has risen to prominence. Great song writers blending a range of sounds and colors like a cross between Gotye and Snowden.. School is starting up so consider this is last big show before you are sweating it over term papers. Young Magic and Week Night open. 

This show was switched from Terminal West to the Earl, If you got tickets for the Terminal West show I am sure the Earl will honor those. Though this is limited by the venue's age restriction of 21 and up. 

it's 16 bucks at the door. 

Album Review : Vision the Kid & Tru's "Somewhere in a Dark City"

When I quit smoking pot my interest in rap music decreased greatly. I think this coincides with the fact that hip hop took a turn with most rappers having nothing to say and either being the urban edge added to a pop song or simply an exercise in nonsense lacking any attempt to make music.Vision the Kid separates himself from this crowd with the help of his producer Tru.

Right from the beginning Tru show his sonic skills on "Love Past Midnight" which has a pretty infectious hook on the melody, that convinces me these guys are committed to writing actual songs rather than just bloated egos rambling. Vision is no slouch as an m.c, as he name drops Ronnie James Dio on the song "Devil" even though it doesn't seem to fit in the lyrical context still earns points in my book.

Kayne West is obviously an influence, but there are rock elements being layered over the beats. The lyrical scheme at times also brings Yelawolf to mind, with the lyrical content fluctuation between social issues and being ghetto fabulous.With the melodic side re-surfaces on the dirty blues swagger of "Lucky You", with the trailer park ambiance of Re-hab. The mention of rapping on stage high like Hunter S Thompson, earns him just as many points as the Dio reference. This tells me he cultural scope of his consciousness is not as myopic as most rappers.

He continues using a relaxed flow on "Sunday Morning", repping the Midwest as Vision glorifies his wake and bake. The slower tempo continues on "Somewhere in the Dark" , where Ben Burell handles the smooth Frank Ocean like hook on the chorus. This one holds the smooth trippy funk of "Atleins" era Outkast. "All Goes Away" which takes this psychedelic element a step further , the wheel isn't being re-invented, but he is showing a broader range of styles than most rappers of this decade have dared this side of Aesop Rock. Lizzie Fontaine's r&b inflected backing vocals are the only element that keeps it's toe in the stream.

He takes his flow to a more edm beat on "Roll Call". His cadence takes on more of a Ludacris element.The roll call of guest rappers don't bring as much to the song as the way the backing track undulates beneath them. The effects of hot boxing the studio continues to show on "Room # 9". His phrasing returns to the Kayne feel, but every thing else he drapes the song in takes the focus from this."Red Eye" follows a more conventional funk groove in his ode to lost love. Lydia Liza's sultry alto give the hook more of an edge. The turn into smoothness closes out this album with "Wires and Knives". There is still an abundance of cool almost sci-fi ambiance coating the background.

While I do not plan to pick up this guy coming out. This tag team promises to shake things up in hip hop so if you are hungry for something new to come out of the rap game this is what you have ordered.

Twenty Questions With James Moore the CEO of Independent Music Promotions

What does it take to make it music ? The answer has shifted with changes in the industry over the past few years. Thankfully in a world pumping out American Idols and Justin Beiber's there are a  few people in the business who actually care about the quality of creativity and taking it to the masses like James Moore the CEO of Independent Music Promotions and author of the book "Your Music is a Virus". So I took some time to talk with James about the state of the music industry and what independent artists can do to stay afloat.

Wil - What inspired you take the leap into music promotions/ p/r  ?

James - A negative motivator; I saw a lot of companies in the business not really respecting the artists and following through on what they say, so there was an opportunity to fill a simple niche for independent musicians; delivering press without the riff raff. Also, I saw it as an opportunity to use the company as a passion project, an extension of my own musical passions for underground music.

Wil- What are the most valuable tools , that you think an artist can have in today's market?

James - Take a risk. I know that many artists want to get in line to record the next potential indie iTunes commercial jingle, but approaching music that way usually leads to mediocre, safe results. If it seems risky, you should do it. Say something. Project something. After all, it's supposed to be art. Be relentless and passionate. Feathers need to be ruffled!

Wil - What do you look for when considering to take on a new client?

James - They need to fit with I.M.P's "music with depth" ethos. We accept most genres, but typically say no to demo-level material, Idol pop/contest type artists, and unoriginal club/mainstream music. If your signature lyric is "poppin' bottles in the club" or you sound like Nickelback, we're probably not interested. To put it simply, I love music done for the love of itself, not created as a business move.

Wil- Since your conception in 2010 what changes have you seen come about in the state of the music business?

James - Well, we've seen more and more of a shift to online, both in media and in music discovery. Popularity is the most valuable currency, and the artists who haven;t figured this out tend to suffer for it. Streaming services like Radio are becoming a much bigger part of our listening habits, and this is a good thing too. Many are suggesting that singles are now the way to go, but I'd advise anyone not to listen to those folks. They're usually referencing pop music, which is more of a singles game. Art should be released however it's meant to according to the project at hand. Could you imagine "The Wall" released as a series of singles?

Wil - Do you feel marketing varies from genre to genre?

James - Absolutely, although there are many similarities. Rock music still has a stronger music review culture around it, whereas EDM/electronic is completely the Soundcloud link and listen. Right down to business!

Wil - Which platform do you feel is the most useful Bandcamp or Soundcloud?

James - They're both excellent. I prefer Bandcamp's look, especially for album listening, but many blogs, including all the Hype Machine blogs, only work with Soundcloud widgets, so Soundcloud has to be the main streaming link when you're working on PR.

Wil - The past decade saw Mtv transition  from music videos to reality tv,so what value do you see music videos for today's artists ?

James - They're extremely valuable, but everything has shifted online. Youtube is the new MTV. People are always going to be interested in what artists are expressing visually. As long as there are creative ideas, music videos will be a huge part of the industry.

Wil - Do you feel that Youtube sensations negatively impact the public's perception of music ?

James - I think the public's perception of music was likely very low in the first place. Look at the countless reality shows and singing contest shows like The Voice or American Idol where they host incredibly awkward karaoke competitions, and the millions of viewers would much rather follow these kids then even look into an actual artist who is writing music, recording and releasing it on their own. If you think about it, that's a very significant thing and it really represents where we're at.

Youtube sensations are another mutation of the same phenomenon, really!

Wil - What musical trends of the past decade do feel are here to stay and what trends do you feel Andy Warhol's clock is ticking away on?

James - Unfortunately, I do think that edgy music will not be coming back to mainstream awareness any time soon. The mainstream, for the past 15 years or so, has focused heavily on very commercialized indie pop, indie folk, rehashed modern Americana groups, and mainstream EDM, with the general mood being cute and cuddly. Must to take to Grandma's house, and this is here to stay. The music that's popular now often sounds like jingles, which makes sense given the current music licensing landscape. Artists are trying to create music that sounds like a jingle.

Wil -  In a world where illegal downloading has become the norm, what is the best avenue for someone looking to make a living playing music?

James - Remove the band mentality and take on the restaurant mentality. You'll notice a significant shift right away. Musicians often get muddled up in ideas of getting discovered/found, deserving exposure, etc, as well as ideas that promotion should be free. Business owners don't have this perspective, and they don't have any luxuries either.

Artists who want to make a living playing music should learn about marketing/business, read Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, etc. They should advertise in a hyper-targeted way to their niche audience and take responsibility for building their following. They will need to invest money in themselves just like every other business on the planet does. But once you decide on this direct-to-fan approach, it's very freeing and there are many more options available than if you take the perspective of being a needy band.

Wil - What limitations do you feel social media has ?

James - Social media is a good thing for direct advertising and fan communication/updates, but artists who think it's the be-all-end-all are sorely missing out on real social proof, such as press where someone else is talking about you. This is critical. You can't tweet your way to success. You need to be doing other things.

Wil -  How do you feel blogging effects mainstream media ?

 James - In many genres, more people get their information from blogs (for better or worse) than from traditional sources, so they have a huge effect. Often the effect can be a malicious one when gossip and rumors hit the forefront, with the mainstream following their lead.

Wil- What are the most common mistakes artists make in terms of self promotion?

James -They misunderstand the process. Artists often think that all a promotion company does is send their music out to a contact list, so they figure if they email all the music blogs on Hype Machine that their promotion efforts will be equivalent. There's one major difference though, and that's cold calling. You're essentially reaching out to hundreds of people who you have no relationship with and can do very little for as far as cross-promotion.

This is why, if you decide to do your promotion yourself, it's ideal to personalize and reach out to as many contributors/individuals as possible as opposed to always going through the main channels. You'll have better results this way. It will be slower, but you'll get more press.

Wil - With the Internet do you feel regional success is still necessary ?

James -The beauty of the internet is that regional success isn't as necessary. You can generate interest from tastemaker or national publications, and often this helps regional stragglers catch on after the fact.

Wil -  How do feel the European music market varies from the American?

James - Europeans are still very passionate and interested in rock and metal as art forms, which is good to see. In the States, you barely ever see a rock artist at a music festival. The focus is indie and electronic almost completely.

Wil -  Is blog buzz the new radio play?

James - It's very important, but it's not a complete replacement for radio. Streaming services are a huge part of the culture now, as is Youtube.

Wil- How important is image ?

James - Image is extremely important. You dress a certain way for your sister's wedding because it's important. You should convey the emotion of your music through your image, and if you don't care to do that, you're projecting how unimportant you feel it is.

Wil - What was the last album you bought?

James -The new Shabazz Palaces album. It's excellent.

Wil- What is it that gives Metal it's staying power as a genre?


James - It's constantly evolving, and although in my opinion most metal artists choose to be unoriginal by following the patterns of their subgenre, it really does benefit metal to have so many arms and legs of creative expression. You look at bands like Behemoth, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, Meshuggah, Gojira, Opeth, etc, and they're all extremely creative and extremely different.

The other thing I love about metal is that it allows the expression of the human experience without repression. Screaming is not necessarily something scary or unacceptable; when used correctly it conveys deep emotion.

Wil - What does the future of I.M.P look like going into 2015 ?

James - We're continuing on our path of promoting music we love, as well as heavily promoting the company, so I'm really excited for what the future has in store. Thanks for having me!

Album Review: the Voices of Terror' s "Rock-Rap Dynasty"

Rap-rock is often lumped in with the bastard son of heavy metal that came into being during the late 90's called Nu Metal, umlauts optional over the u. How ever this breeding of the two genre's is nothing nu, it came into being back when Run-Dmc was incorporating rock elements and New York thrasher's Anthrax declared "I'm the Man" way before their time. This rap project from New Jersey claims that rock-rap, which is a reversal of the term is like Obi Wan Kenobi, our only hope.

A loft claim, even though they do manage to  mix a more varied array of elements than expected. They set their sights for the same sonic scheme as say Death Grips. There seems to be significantly less organic elements. On the opening track  features what is either over processed guitar or distorted synths meant to sound like guitar and based on the fact I often can't tell what the case is I suppose they suceeded.

One of the album's strengths is ho  the synth lines make this much dark than most rap that comes my way.They also do not try to fit into the radio friendly production format of hip- hop today.The string patterns almost give it  a goth like sound. The flow of the main m.c Mike Walker, carries aggression, yet treading close to  Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda. His co-conspirator Zero's attempts at the mic are less intimidating.

The synth like guitar sound works well on "Lethal Weapon" almost conjuring up the old organ sound that Deep Purple employed, when John Lord ran a Hammond through a Marshall stack with the gain up. The stringed backing tracks take the forefront forcing the  rapped verse to weave underneath. An array of  well placed punches make this one of the albums more meticulously arranged songs. This is where  the project shines  at blending sounds.

 On  "The Old Gods"   Walker looks at his place in the rap game. He says that "he was born in the 90's so if you are bringing real lyrics to the table get behind him". This song features a  shout out to the who's who of classic rap Krs-one, Tu-Pac, Easy-E, Dre and others. So at least they understand that artists should know the roots of their craft

"Insane Lyricist" reminds me of Atlanta's claim to rap-rock Stuck Mojo. The drum interplay  is stronger. launching into the hooks with more energy . The Krs-one vibe is pretty strong here as well. "Warrior" and "Problems" are both high energy, the momentum  runs them together as a one two punch. They both being more straight forward than some of their more experimental moments. "Dynasty" makes more use out of drumming to create a fun house ride of neck jerking syncopation.

The album's final moments find "Save Me" collecting all the elements that have worked on this album and refining them into one song. This song is just as solid as  the album's lead single "Warning" (featured below) . "Voiceless" is an instrumental piece that needs to be remixed into something that would do their voices justice. As an instrumental these guys aren't Rush, and unless they were going a more dub-step route, they work best bringing the flow.

This is these youngsters  first album, putting them at  a good start. We have already heard groups like Issues claiming to be a come back of new metal , which is a band wagon these guys could hop aboard if that come to fruition. The more experimental direction works the best for them. With the more   electronic elements being their strength, as of right now it sits in a middle ground between wanting cohesive as a traditional song, which isn't something someone like Death Grips really does. Their inspiration from the classic taught them song structure, and they have displayed the rules are learned. The theme to the album seems to be how rap is stale and this brand of it will be redemptive to the art form, this is going to require them to  reach beyond their means next time and with better production they might full fill those claims.                    

Album Review : Micheal Leonard Witham's "A Scandal In the Violets"

I like country , that is when it's done right. The most country thing about Michael Leonard Witham isn't the twang of the music behind him, but the emphasis on crafting some great songs to nurse one at the bar to. He elevates himself over the indie rock beardos by being full of emotive angst that leaves the sarcasm dripping of his tortured voice. Pessimistic , but not  more  line with Neutral Milk Hotel and "Fevers and Mirrors " era Bright Eyes. The twang of country lingers in the backing instrumentation. 

Witham who his start dumpster diving and finding a treasure of a Yamaha guitar.If it's  the same acoustic guitar being strummed on "Down For Good" then there have been some up grades. The lyrics get rougher when the music becomes smoother on '"Defective Heart".  " Oh, the Evil" shares more in common with Bobby Zimmerman than just the harmonica, as Witham's strength lies not in his pipes but in his ability to craft lyrics.

His shift his approach to singing most notably on" Sideways Grin and a Wandering Eye" his voice almost takes on a somewhat less melodic croon than "Maggie May" ear Rod Stewart. He stays in similar Stewart territory on the upbeat "Miss LA", which to my ears sounds like it should be the album's radio single and also carries the most conventional rock feel.

Witham comes back full circle to the flavor of  country he opened the album with on "Ordinary Hand". This reflective ballad gives a slight wink in the direction of Ryan Adams on this one. "The Good Doctor's Double Vodka Blues" , is a bar rousing number that sways like the room spins in a snide snapshot of Small Town America drinking.

The "Blue Moon of Kentucky" two step that is "Last Pleas to Ashley Ann" is a sardonic, yet up beat explanation to drunken infidelity. It is probably the album's most straight forward song and something I could have seen the Violent Femmes doing in the late eighties. There are more bar room balladry on " Where the Witches Live' which I though would be darker, but with lines like "me and my girl Melaine/ she's a walking talking felony" it's hard to complain.

This album is fun. It would be right up the back alley of anyone who enjoys a good bender. A soundtrack to your hangovers as well as  anyone caught doing the walk of shame on the Sunday morning. It's a fateful position in the musical library I once reserved for Elliot Smith and ...well we know how that ended up so here's hoping Whitham is making drinking songs for years to come. .