Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Potsdam Says Goodbye to The Cherubs and Welcomes Cities Over Seas

Published in the 4/18/08 issue of The Racquette.

For a show only advertised on Facebook, by word of mouth, and with conspicuous but information-void posters, Saturday night’s house show featuring The Cherubs, Cities Over Seas, and Electrical Bananas, was brimming with people. Over 100 people filtered through the few small rooms before the music even started. Electrical Bananas, a Vegan Straight Edge punk band played first. The band was heartfelt, with some great melodic guitar lines and vocals. They didn’t quite fit into the same niche as the others on the bill, but still added to the appeal of the show.

Next up were Cities Over Seas, playing their second show ever. They easily brought their live show to the next level between those two shows alone. The room was tight and intimate, and due to Cities’ burgeoning fame, the crowd was completely engrossed. Fans danced and knew the right moments to clap during the upbeat electronic breakdowns. It was truly a stellar performance from a band that is the next big thing in the Potsdam music scene.

Finally, The Cherubs’ set was filled with familiar songs from their debut EP and CD as well as a few new songs. The night was full of surprises, including dancing contests and free toothbrushes. The attendees danced enthusiastically and bounced off of one another in a mosh pit in one of the smallest living rooms to ever hold a show of such magnitude. The room was overheated and full of sweaty people having a good time. The performance was over the top as usual, but nevertheless extremely fun to participate in. Shows this diverse and unique are hard to come by.

This show truly ushered out the old, with the Cherubs ending their stint in Northern New York, and brought in the new, with Cities Over Seas about to take Potsdam by storm. Cities Over Seas’ CD, National Phantom, was released this week, and will be available at the College Bookstore and any Madstop events.

Check out the bands:

Electrical Bananas: http://www.myspace.com/electricalbananasx

Cities Over Seas: http://www.myspace.com/citiesoverseas

The Cherubs: http://www.myspace.com/dancemfdance

Potsdam Rock Orchestra to perform rock and pop favorites

Published in the 4/18/08 issue of The Racquette.

The Potsdam Rock Orchestra is thrilled to present a program of all newly arranged but familiar rock tunes on Friday, May 9th at 7:30PM in the Knowles MPR. The group consists of 17 members, playing everything from standard rock band instruments to woodwinds and strings. The musical selection will be quite diverse, ranging from Carmina Burana to Bon Jovi to Phantom of the Opera. “It’s going to be all stuff you know, but with a different twist to it,” claims bass player Zakk Eastman. Ron Cuevas, guitarist, calls the group “rock meets classical.”

The show promises to be exciting and unique. “It’s something that concertgoers probably never experienced if they’ve never seen us,” says Cheryl Paine, clarinet player and vocalist. Zakk Eastman values this because “it’s a different genre that Crane doesn’t really expose you to.” It will surely be something different than Potsdam students usually see, but still very high quality. “You’re going to come in and hear intellectual music,” promises Ron Cuevas.

The Potsdam Rock Orchestra originated from Ron Cuevas’s vision to lead a rock band with a full orchestra behind it. The vision came into reality last September when he got together fellow musicians and friends from the Crane School of Music, and prepared a Christmas program based off of Trans-Siberian Orchestra covers. The program was performed in Potsdam and Utica. Since their last performance, the group has expanded significantly, adding more members and more varied songs.

Tickets for May 9th will be available for advance purchase at the SGA Office, where Bear Express is accepted. Advance tickets are $4; tickets will be $5 at the door.

For more information about the Potsdam Rock Orchestra and booking, contact info@potsdamrockorchestra.com. Be sure to check out their website at http://www.potsdamrockorchestra.com.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Latin Ensemble Performance Spices Up Crane

Here's the next piece that I wrote for the Racquette. More will be coming soon! This was published in last week's paper.

The Crane Latin Ensemble, under the direction of Marsha Baxter, had excited audience members dancing in the aisles of Hosmer Hall during their performance on Thursday, April 10th. The group is comprised of the finest and most versatile musicians in Crane. They played a variety of Latin songs, focusing in on those made famous by familiar performers such as Carlos Santana and Gloria Estefan. Some songs, such as “Para los rumberos” and “Everybody’s everything” were performed by the full ensemble, which consists of vocalists, trumpets, saxophones, flute, violin, a percussion section, and other rhythm instruments. Other charts, including “Terriaki,” were played by smaller, more intimate, groups of instruments from the ensemble. The energy of the group was overwhelming, and perhaps the loud amplification of the instruments was unnecessary. Nevertheless, the blend of the group and the excitement they induced from the nearly 100 audience members was surely a change of pace from most Crane events.

The stage was flanked with tables and chairs to evoke a cafĂ© setting, and brightly clad Phoenix Club singers sat in the chairs and at the edge of the stage. Half way through the Latin Ensemble’s set, they welcomed the ladies of Phoenix Club (a Crane choral group) to center stage to sing an a capella number. Although it was performed enthusiastically, it did not match the feel of the rest of the performance. The singers did help lighten the mood with their brightly colored shirts and dancing at the sides of the stage and in the aisles.

Thanks to the encouragement of the ensemble members and those dancing on stage, many audience members got out of their seats to try out new dance moves in the aisles. This is a sight rarely witnessed in Crane, where most programs are classical and audience is expected to behave in a more refined manner. At one point, a conga line even started to dance around the floor of the Hall, picking up more and more enlightened concertgoers as it went.

Seeing the Crane Latin Ensemble perform each semester is a new experience, as the group is constantly changing. Instead of having the ensemble conform to set instrumentation standards, the group adapts to fit which musicians are eligible and compatible with the group. This year has brought flute and violin into the group, as well as more vocalists and even an accordionist.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cities Over Seas Brings Unique Sound to Potsdam Music Scene

So, as a bit of a preface to this...I'm writing for my college's newspaper now, The Racquette. It's pretty exciting, and is getting me writing again, and on a more regular basis! Here is my first published article, about a new band I saw in Potsdam last weekend.

Hurley’s was unusually crowded on Saturday night, April 5th, for the long-anticipated debut of local band Cities Over Seas. At 10 minutes past 8pm, just as the crowd was getting anxious for music, warm-up act Meredith Atkinson took the stage. Atkinson, the titular “Mouse” of Mouse and the Love and Light Orkestra, played a solo set, accompanied only by her acoustic guitar. Her cloyingly sweet voice belted out academic, polysyllabic lyrics, reminiscent of literature-loving romantics, The Decemberists. She sang songs of love and loss, and yet she kept an ingratiating smile on her face, regardless of the gravity of some of the lyrics.

Cities Over Seas came onstage and were greeted by their enthusiastic, already established fan base. The audience was mesmerized by the familiar sound of Doug Campbell’s ethereal, mellow vocals in a new context: one of ambient guitar, bass lines, and beats. Campbell rose to the occasion, delivering the vocals with as much emotion as a solo show, with Matt Durkin’s harmonies supporting them even more. The song “Sand Sculptures” washed over the audience and filled the entire room with sound, enhanced even further by the pre-programmed material that was recorded for the album and played simultaneously. The album title track, “National Phantom,” was appropriately characterized by a haunting piano line and languid, slide guitar. After the somber title track, the band plowed into an energetic pair of songs to end the set: “Time Bombs” and “The Kitchen Party” (to which an enthusiastic concert attendee shouted, “I love this song!” after presumably hearing it on their website). Newcomers Cities Over Seas proved that they have the flexibility to be diverse and the ability to transcend genre stereotypes. One of the most refreshing things about this band was that they clearly were enjoying making music. The musicians of Cities Over Seas smiled and interacted with each other and the audience.

The most obvious benefit of seeing this band live, as opposed to recorded, is the fact that the pre-programmed musical material only colors the live show: it doesn’t define it. On some of the recordings, the electronics and synthesizers are almost overdone, and the real musicianship gets buried. Chelsea Wischerth, Freshman Geology major, thought “the electronic tracks definitely gave them their unique sound, but more importantly made it more pleasing to the ear and made it more fun to dance to. Adam Conforti, Junior Music Education major, agreed, they were a fun band with great energy. A crowd of 88 definitely spoke volumes to the benefit of using the internet and word of mouth to advertise.

Wired after an intense first set, Alex Butler, bassist for Cities Over Seas, cited the chemistry of the band members as the key to their success. Alex Butler, along with Craig Marrer and Matt Durkin had all played together previously in the now defunct band Slow Release. “We wanted to still play together…and I’d always wanted to play with Doug [Campbell],” said Butler, so it was only natural for the group to click. Joe Parker, drummer, was added into the mix, and the vision was realized. Bulter and Marrer credited Radiohead, The Postal Service, Ratatat, and jokingly, Rush, as influences on their music.

Madstop Records A&R Executive, Jared Brickman, is extremely excited to welcome Cities Over Seas to the label. “This band comes at a great time,” said Brickman, noting the increasing influence of electronics in indie music. Cities Over Seas is “an awesome step in the direction the label wants to go,” and is going to target the market that Madstop has always been interested in reaching. When asked what has made this project such a success, Brickman stated, “This is music that we [Madstop Records] really truly believe in.”

Cities Over Seas’ debut album, “National Phantom,” is slated for release during the week of April 20th. It will be available for purchase at the College Bookstore, as well as Northern Music in downtown Potsdam. You can listen to tracks from the album at the band’s myspace, http://www.myspace.com/citiesoverseas