FOR #MichaelBrown: “Standing In The Breach”

I know he wrote the song about the earthquake in Haiti, but tonight as I try to fathom the situation in Ferguson from a civil rights perspective, I have kept playing Jackson Browne’s stunningly evocative “Standing in the Breach.” Applying the songwriter’s words to the Brown family’s pleas for peace in spite of an agonizing situation I can only imagine, it is hard not to hear these words with renewed import:

And though the earth may tremble and the oceans pitch and rise
We will all assemble and we will lift our eyes
To the tasks that we know lie before us
And the power our prayers beseech
And cast our souls into the heavens, standing in the breach

You don’t know why it’s such a far cry
From the world this world could be
You don’t know why but you still try
For the world you wish to see
You don’t know how it’s going to happen now
After all that’s come undone
And you know the world you’re waiting for may not come
No it may not come
But you know the change the world needs now
Is there, in everyone

I have no stronger words.

 

 

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CONCERT REVIEW: Alien Ant Farm (The Vogue, Indianapolis, 11/21/14)

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Dryden Mitchell lets it all hang out at the Vogue in Indy. (Photo: Jonathan Sanders)

Though the opening acts on the bill more then exceeded expectations, Dryden Mitchell and Alien Ant Farm hit the stage at the Vogue in Indianapolis to play for a crowd well versed in their blend of early ’00s alternative rock, and wound up bringing the roof down.

The setlist heavily favored the band’s breakthrough album ANThology, but for good reason — the platinum album featured hits “Movies,” “Courage,” “Wish,” “Sticks and Stones” and the showstopping Michael Jackson cover “Smooth Criminal,” all of which were played for fans who knew the songs in and out. Mitchell still has the stamina and showmanship to give these songs life in a way which is more than just nostalgia. By the time he tore into a three-minute showstopper version of “Smooth Criminal,” which blended in the vocals to “Finally” by CeCe Peniston, it was clear nothing had been left on the table.

And the songs the band did focus on from upcoming album Always and Forever, due out in January, built on the reputation they’ve earned for earnest appreciation for the music that’s come before, while remaining willing to experiment with their sound. “Homage” seems a hit in the making, putting the band’s influences on display while pushing their music to a new generation of fans who will surely devour ANThology, TruANT and Up in the Attic just as readily.

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ALIEN ANT FARM – “Smooth Criminal”

ALIEN ANT FARM – “Wish” + “Forgive and Forget”

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Join The Dead

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Indianapolis’s Join The Dead (photo: Jonathan Sanders) — click for high-resolution

There’s already a lot of buzz building around Indianapolis melodic metal band Join The Dead, and it is well earned based on the wild performance they gave the Vogue last night while opening for Stars In Stereo and Alien Ant Farm. From the moment they began to play, the crowd rushed the stage as the band gave what I have to call the strongest performance I’ve seen from a local opening act at a show. They could have played another half hour and no one would have complained. A great deal of the credit goes to Sahar Mantalvo on lead vocals — that man’s insane, with so much energy to burn it could fuel five bands. But the supporting musicians are all top notch, as is firmly illustrated by their solid 2014 album Distorted Cognition, which features “Accolade,” this year’s strongest track you’ve probably never heard.

Dig in! We’ve got videos below of three songs (one previously unrecorded!) as well as additional photos from the show! Sound off in the comments below — how long before Join The Dead outgrows Indianapolis and goes national?

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JOIN THE DEAD – “Lost” and “Oceans”

JOIN THE DEAD – “Untitled” (Unreleased Track!)

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All photos taken by Jonathan Sanders

Click each to see a larger, high-res version!

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CONCERT REVIEW: My Brightest Diamond (White Rabbit Cabaret, Indianapolis, 11/20/14)

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My Brightest Diamond shines at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis (Credit: Jonathan Sanders)

I already knew prior to attending last night’s My Brightest Diamond performance at the White Rabbit that Shara Worden’s voice is a national treasure. But now that I’ve seen first-hand the multi-faceted, balls-to-the-wall performance, I can say without qualification that My Brightest Diamond needs to be on every music fan’s must-see bucket list. I’ve never seen a performer put everything out on stage in such an intense, honest performance where it was abundantly clear nothing was left in the bottle at performance’s finish. It’s hard to fathom where Worden even gets all that energy. Performing in a three-piece setup with bass, drums and her own guitar and loops, everything was there to provide a backdrop for that stunning voice. And it was her voice which shone the brightest, whether on a fiery cover of “Feeling Good” to her showstopping rendition of the classic “Inside A Boy.”

For those of you who weren’t there, check out the live videos below for “Inside A Boy,” as well as three songs off her latest album This Is My Hand, which was released by Indiana’s own Asthmatic Kitty label. Though this is the next best thing to being there, if Worden announces another My Brightest Diamond show in Indianapolis next year I urge you to see it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

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MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND – “I Am Not The Bad Guy”

 

MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND – “Inside A Boy”

 

MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND – “Lover Killer”

 

MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND – “Resonance”

SCENE SETTER: Tin Comet Coffee

Tin Comet Coffee — 2119 E 10th Street, Indianapolis

If you’re looking for somewhere to hear some really solid indie songwriters from the Indianapolis scene while drinking some amazing java concoctions, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot on the near-East Side than the Tin Comet. Grab a mug off the wall and place your order (ask about the Muddy Hippie or an Apple Chai), then pick the best seat in the house for conversation or to hear singer-songwriters on “Open Mic” night. Or drop in December 5th to hear a number of rising star bands as part of the First Friday series!

The two videos below were from this evening’s laid-back “Open Mic” performances, featuring two Indianapolis songwriters I’ll be looking to hear much more from — Eli Crow performs a new song, “Subtle King,” while Dani House gives a rousing performance of his drinking anthem “Please Don’t Ask.” Like what you hear? Sound off in the comments, and help support the Indianapolis music scene!

 

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Ménage

I moved upstate with a well-mannered man
He’s awake at eight, he seems to understand

Sing me a love song
Sing me a love song
It’s all I’ll ever ask

Sing me a love song
Sing me a love song
I swear I won’t laugh …

For those among us who love multi-layered pop which defies expectations, Ménage is a band worth noting. Diffuser.fm appreciated their “expertly crafted … inspiring sound weaved in and out of intense pop arrangements,” but I’d get much more specific. Imagine if Jason Isbell teamed up with Cyndi Lauper to record with One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, and you’re at least going to be on the right wavelength. Even then, there’s something ethereal about “Love Song” which makes slapdash comparisons a pointless endeavor.

EP, the second of four planned extended-play singles, features that song and three others of equal or greater value, allowing the listener’s anticipation to build throughout its length. Saving “Love Song” for last, fans can relish the Roxette-tinged pop-rock of “Our Time Is Now,” the brilliantly Chvrches-esque melodic hook of “To The End” and the stutter-step percussion of “Promises II” before reaching the aural catharsis of their strongest track. Smartly the band builds our expectations and then leaves us just quickly enough to ensure we’ll be clamoring for EP #3. This Toronto threesome won’t be obscure for long if there’s justice in the musical universe.

UNDER COVER: Hoochie Coochie Men – “I’d Rather Go Blind Don’t Let Me Down”

You’ve never heard Etta James or the Beatles like this. I have to give credit where it is due, and the Hoochie Coochie Men drop the mic with finality on this magnificent mash-up of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” and John Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down”  which manages to build upon both without sacrificing what made both songs classics in their own right. This is what keeps me writing about music, listening to music, dreaming about music. And it’s going to keep you up late tonight, I guarantee!