The Way Live Should Be

Your source for show and CD reviews, festival previews, and interviews with your favorite artists playing around New England and beyond!

Ill by Instinct’s new album Second Wind; Review # 4 from our list of 5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists You Must Own!

5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists you should own:

Sandbag; Sloppy Jays (read our album review here!)

Line of Force; Symbiotic (read our album review here!)

Running Gags; Yeah, No (read our album review here!)

Ill By Instinct; Second Wind

Restless Groove; Self-Title EP

Here at the Way Live Should Be we have varied tastes in music, but we tend to gravitate to music that challenges us and is often very intellectual. Ill By Instinct‘s new album 2nd Wind is no exception, but it does stand out as some of the deepest and intensively crafted hip-hop we have heard (featuring 100% production by El Shupacabra). For those of us who prefer a solid beat and a sound that is pleasing to the ear, don’t stop reading; 2nd Wind has that too. The beats on this album will stick in your head as the words work their way under your skin.

Buy the album via Bull Moose or listen here!!

The primary theme and most unique aspect of 2nd Wind is its “great American classic novel” qualities; Ill By Instinct, if nothing else, is a fantastic storyteller. This album is filled with literary verse and craftsmanship using  metaphor, drama and theater, climax and resolution. The more I listened to this album, the more every song surpassed my expectations and impressions from the prior listen. The tone of voice, speed, and enlightened lyricism is paired ideally with instrumental beats that really seem to accent the message and style of the rhymes. Additionally, although the beats all tend to be instrumental at their base, many of the songs are layered to create an industrial feel that lends a strong continuity to the album. The combination creates an emotionally powerful sound that is the perfect stage for IBI’s complex and challenging words.

The song concepts vary from outright, intricate storytelling (Room to Breathe, Knowledge of Self) to extensive criticism of Western society and resonating descriptions of the intensity of surviving within that society. My personal favorite was Calm and Collected; which serves to build a crescendo that culminates in the battle in the song Knowledge of Self. Calm and Collected is a great representative of the album as a whole; the beats set a theatric stage for the well versed drama that discusses the complexity of life; ridding oneself of affliction, recognizing our humanity, and “as intimate as it is limitless”. Whether you are a music fan who will hang on IBI’s every word or who will focus primarily on the musical craftsmanship and tight beats you will not be disappointed by 2nd Wind.

Track Listing:

Look Around:

This song is difficult to pinpoint a specific topic for, making it a solid introductory track. Discussing hidden evil, sanity, and struggle; the song introduces a lot of the themes that reappear throughout the album. Additionally it introduces IBI’s heavy style in an almost scatterbrained way; engaging interest and easing the listener in for some more seriously elaborate pieces later in the album.

Room To Breathe:

A story that would border on gossip in “real-life”, this song is a wonderfully told tale of overcoming challenges and oppression, disappointment, tragedy and sadness. There are many themes the listener can identify with, including blazing one’s own trail in the face of opposition and falling hard over obstacles. “His demons tried to get him, but his brain wouldn’t let them.” This is also one of the tracks where the beats are almost industrial sounding and work really well to set the story that is told.


A seemingly inward look into the personal trials of the artist and specifically getting back up after a fall.  “Voluntary solitary, not solving any problems, yet he wanders unapologetically”.

Bring Back the Love ft. Kristina Kentigian:

Such an awesome song… definitely one to “play on blast”; turn this one up LOUD. Another of my favorites for its layered beats and instrumental accents. The rhymes specifically address being passionate about what you do, controlling your perspective and interacting with your surroundings as an artist. “If I wasn’t doing this I would be a doctor or a lawyer instead of sacrificing my life to do what I enjoy”.

Calm and Collected:

My favorite song on this album; Calm and Collected serves as the build up to the crescendo in Knowledge of Self. The dramatic piano based beat, the use of verbal stage setting and characterization of abstract concepts (“deception lurks waiting to stick its head in”), and especially the breathing in this song creates a strong emotionality and fantastic sense of the theater of everyday life.

Knowledge of Self:

This song is an epic battle story complete with virtue and the great conflict between two opposing brothers. The beat builds the climax and power of this track beautifully.

After All:

A heady track that begins the resolution of the album with blatant societal criticism and religion based metaphors; this is another of my favorites. “Keeping it PC and rated G while the world is in a cataclysm, meanwhile just nag at the system and claim to be the victim… Yet he who holds stones should not throw them, instead build a foundation for our people to have a home in… Its our own people who scare us and who have for a long time.”

Hometown Hero:

This track celebrates the individual who works the average 9-5, blending in to their society and yet still spends their passion and energy making others aware of the bullshit we are constantly being fed;

“Somewhere there is a model citizen, bridging gaps to fit in with a system that restricts them to a victim… Subliminal threats they use to fill up your head, do you believe what you’re fed? You’re awake but instead if you obey what they said, then your thoughts are vacant and dead.”

Then lamenting how fucked our society is and avoiding its attempts to diminish our humanity and consciousness via mass distraction;

“When they are only concerned with airing out the dirty laundry from the other side of the dichotomy, how about a bipartisan apology for the invasion of our private property? … Its on the average citizen to arm himself with information for only through education can we change the situation we’re facing.”

Town Crier:

The final track of the album offers some concluding thoughts and advice for listeners and lets us back into our own realities as gently as is possible. “You can’t buy it or steal it, If you have it you can’t give it back, It’s the meaning of life and it’s the way we interact with the people we pass… Can’t leave it to the diplomats to keep the planet intact, we need a plan of attack… This is where it all begins because this is where it ends, now I’ve got my second wind.”

Additionally, Ill by Instinct and El Shupacabra are the duo behind Portland’s Rap Night, Wednesdays at the Big Easy. Check IBI out there or like him on facebook to keep an eye out for his next show!


-edited by Kim Morrison

The Running Gags’ new album Yeah, No; Review # 3 from our list of 5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists You Must Own!

5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists you should own:

Sandbag; Sloppy Jays (read our album review here!)

Line of Force; Symbiotic (read our album review here!)

Running Gags; Yeah, No

Ill By Instinct; Second Wind

Restless Groove; Self-Title EP

There has been a lot written about the Running Gags’ new album Yeah, No already, so we will try to keep our review short and to the point. The album has been called genre-hopping and generally seems to be regarded by reviewers as having musical split personalities. Dispatch writers have gone so far as to say,

“I’m not saying that The Running Gags have to find a box and stay within the boundaries of it, but it would be nice if they knew which box fit them best and in what general vicinity that box was located.”

… but then followed that up with;

“There is overwhelming potential on display but it is clouded by genre hopping and I think, on some level, a lack of nailing down what the band is supposed to be.”

While it is true that each song on the album tends to differ in its influences and style references; it is not to say there is no cohesion to the album. A personal need for a band to figure out what they are “supposed to be” is just that; one individual’s personal, media influenced need (music wasn’t so rigorously placed within specific genres until record companies needed to define a language to make marketing easier). What the Gags are offering is original and unique for its intense musical excellence regardless of what style of music they play. Yeah, No will not appease a music listener who wants a continuous and similar song to song feel. Rather, the music listener who will appreciate and enjoy the Running Gags, and this album specifically, is that individual with a wide array of musical preferences and whose main requirement is technical skill and creativity. The Gags have that aplenty. If you appreciate a musical group that can offer you several different facets of themselves with each facet as honed and fulfilled as the last, then the Yeah, No is the album for you.

With that little rant aside, Yeah, No has clear punk, pop, and rock influences with some ska and reggae references mixed in. I do feel this album was meant to be an introduction for listeners to the full range and potential of the Gags; a sort of declaration of their abilities. I found the album energizing and exciting; the first time I ever heard the Running Gags I thought they had a lot of classier 90’s influences (we first wrote about them in 2010! Check it out here). Over the years they have grown significantly and left some of that 90’s style behind for a more full and heavier overall sound. Yeah, No features this perfectly; on the album the band offers the listener an extremely well crafted snapshot of their current stage in their life as the Running Gags. Yet one can tell they don’t take themselves too seriously; the music communicates a level of fun, creativity, humor, and potential that leaves me without a doubt that they will continue to evolve and always be offering their audience some totally new part of themselves. One of the Gag’s greatest qualities is that there is so much technical skill, difference in musical inspiration, and drive behind each member of the group and yet simultaneously so much cohesion in the band as a single functioning unit. These guys are going to continue to offer excellent and unique material throughout their career; so buy the ticket and take the ride!

Buy the album here!

The Running Gags have shows lined up in Portland, Waterville, Naples, and even Manchester, NH! Check out their schedule here! Make sure to catch them when they open for the Rustic Overtones in September at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington, ME!!

Favorite Songs:

Mr. Invincible; has some of the most rocking bass and guitar lines, also very catchy.

Too Loud; this song is a Rager, has some awesome layering of vocals  and really features the tight skills of the drummer throughout.

OMKAJ; this song, along with Just A Tree, features some excellent saxophone. This song is an a rollercoaster jam session and just overall fantastic.

Neat Fact about the Gags: If you have never seen them before; we have always been impressed by the fact that the “guitarist” and “bassist” switch rolls constantly depending on which song they are playing!

For a more song by song assessment of Yeah, No check out the Maine Campus’ review here.

Also, Dispatch’s review is here.


Line of Force’s new album Symbiotic; Review # 2 from our list of 5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists You Must Own!

5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists you should own:

Sandbag; Sloppy Jays (read our album review here!)

Line of Force; Symbiotic

Running Gags; Yeah, No

Ill By Instinct; Second Wind

Restless Groove; Self-Title EP

Line of Force’s new album Symbiotic is a celebration of life, pure and simple. The main reason you should own this album is for the good feelings it will bring minus the fluff and poppy sounds so typical of the “feel good genre”. Symbiotic really brings a level of positivity, thankfulness, and awareness that left me feeling uplifted. This album is loaded with instrumentality that evokes good feelings and good times. Yet it is not simplistic or overly lighthearted; the music has a definitive mature, serious sound that balances the positivity that is inherent in Line of Force’s style. Although this group is not one that cycles through extended, face melting solos; still I found myself shaking my head at various points throughout the album at the level and quality of musicianship. Placing this group in a genre is difficult; there are jamband, soul, funk, blues and jazz influences spread throughout. One of my favorite aspects is the clear Tom Waits influence to the vocal style; especially noticeable in Track 6; Us Against Them.

It is hard to isolate what separates Line of Force from other bands I have heard. Certain riffs and tracks definitely remind me of your average festival band; the upbeat tempo and light hearted guitar contribute a lot to that association. However, I think the intelligent lyrics,  instrumental skill, elevated horn/sax and the tendency throughout for multiple simultaneous and back up vocalists give the album a spiritual cast that conveys a lot of forethought and craftsmanship. Themes of gratitude, love, and coming together strongly support my initial impressions. Take the song Just Be; the song is simultaneously high energy, uplifted, and rough at the edges (in a good way… its in the lead vocals).

I have to take a second and share the band’s description from their facebook page, it really helps capture what I am trying to share with you:

“We were born of the notion that much of what you hear on the radio is utter crap, distracting you from the notion that you are composed of radiant beams of light and the creators of untold alternate realities. We have come to listen and unfold new and better realities with you…”

This is exactly what Line of Force is; they convey their passion for the true potential in each one of us through their music as clear as if they were yelling it at you. Instead, they turn it into sweet, sweet music and communicate directly to your soul.

The album starts very upbeat, but gradually gets more serious and slightly heavier (in theme) the deeper you get in; peaking with Us Against Them, the most Tom Waits influenced of all the tracks in vocals and tempo. The final four songs are quite a bit slower, yet the decrease in tempo and the prettiness of these songs really works for the album as a well developed composition. My only complaint about Symbiotic is the final song (All My Life); it leaves the listener with a slight sense of discord and lack of balance,  a feeling that seems out of place compared to the rest of the album despite the song’s relative strength as an individual composition. However, Symbiotic is a fantastic album that will really appeal to individuals who normally may not get into that jam-soul style.

Buy Symbiotic from Bull Moose Music here or at your nearest store!! Keep your eye out for our next review of a Maine made album you should own; Yeah, No from the Running Gags!

 Symbiotic Track Listing

Come On: Strong jamband and funk influences, this song is a perfect intro song. Come On is very fun and uplifting.

Troopin’: Similar to Come On in overall feel, but more intricate and featuring some extra elevated musicianship.

Gratitude: One of my favorites; fantastic saxophone and backup vocals really make this song stand out. The theme of thankfulness and inner strength is very compelling.

Just Be: Featuring some higher energy rock and funk influences, this song is very high energy and also polished.

Jefferson’s Blues: As the name implies, this track is a bit bluesy and features some great gruff vocals and fantastic brass.

Us Against Them: My top favorite for its obvious Tom Waits influence, but still keeping in with that unique Line of Force style. Additionally, the subject matter is really interesting (see below)

Ostrich: A really gorgeous song about “pulling my head out of the sand”; strong themes of maturing and overcoming personal struggles.

The Key: A slow tempo, pretty song discussing unity and oneness.

Symbiotic: This song starts off slow, but builds in intensity and is a strong title track. I feel as if this would have made a good final song.

All My Life: A very slow track, not my favorite, but still a strong composition.

Us Against Them lyrics:

I’m not too broken up no more
bout guns or drugs or games
or the man’s tired old and feeble lies
bout from where and from whence they came
I can see right through the blares and glares
of a media long lost in the static in the air
and I don’t want none of the circling cycle
repeating the same verse again
yet I write and I blather and sit on my ass
until the sword is mightier than the pen
i’m more interested in retribution a grand redistribution
of the billions of stolen moments of lovers that have
gone to the angry maw of the machine
I’m more interested in the sanctity of a kiss

I’m not too broken up about all the broken families
who’ve been bloodied for generations
by a perpetually funded and preconceived notion
that it’s a pertinent game of ‘us against them’
and even now I’m on the hunt for the next stolen moment
from the work/tax/kill situation
in a superfluous attempt to escape the onslaught
of information over time and exponential increases in ‘us against them’
i will sit by my window and listen
to the cycle the circle the undivide
the beginning the middle the ride

i’m not too tired to respect
what is given and taken away
or to forgive the man and his lies
for breaking the family and robbing the grave
i’m done with the mediocrity of the mediocracy
that celebrates the divine in the cheap
I’m done with it eating me up from behind
as my protest becomes the method of enslavement
and I’m done bustin my hump just to finance the pump
and bigger and shittier pavement

I’m more interested in gardens and grapes and joy
not yet gone to the angry maw of the machine
I’m more interested in the sanctity of forgiveness
I’m more into devising an inaction uprising
that chooses not to participate in the game
to take down the notion of mindless devotion
to a ’cause’ that is ‘us against them’
right now let us prowl look around you now
and find somebody to love
in a last ditch attempt to forget our bodies exist
and eradicate ‘us against them’


Sandbag’s New Album Sloppy Jays; the first in our list of 5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists You Must Own!

5 2012 Albums by Maine Artists you should own:

Sandbag; Sloppy Jays

Line of Force; Symbiotic

Running Gags; Yeah, No

Ill By Instinct; Second Wind

Restless Groove; Self-Title EP

The first album in our 2012 “Albums from Maine Artists You Should Own” list is Sandbag’s Sloppy Jays. It is named for the two producers that worked on the album; Slop and Jay Caron. Additionally, the album features the vocals of Kristina Kentigian on the track Mundane Lives.

Of the two prior albums I have heard from Sandbag (Rappers Are Emotional and the mix tape, Pay Attention; available for free download here) this album really demonstrates the potential and skill of the group; not just as a Maine hip-hop group, but as eclectic and intellectual musicians. The best bands lead you to discover other talented artists and Sandbag does not fail to offer that key element.

Sloppy Jays, more than their two prior releases, sounds truly complete. It stands on its own as a creation, to some extent, separate from the band. Sloppy Jays is essentially greater than the sum of its parts. If you are a Sandbag veteran, familiar with Rappers Are Emotional and Pay Attention like we are, then perhaps you will at first be taken aback by the raw emotionality that is more evident on this album than in the past.. One could argue that the ratio of emotional and relationship commentary to political, social, and philosophical analysis is higher on this album than on the prior two. Although at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the increased emotional element, the more I listen to the album the more I love it exactly as it is. I think it is important, as a music fan, to recognize when our passion for a specific aspect of a musical group keeps us from evolving with the artist in question; inhibiting us from recognizing the strengths in their change and growth.

Growth is definitely a key aspect of Sloppy Jays. This likely is in part due to the influence of the two producers. The song to song flow is spot on, and far surpasses that of either of the former albums. Additionally, each individual song sounds perfectly composed down to the artful, instrumental beats, the choruses, the secession and synchronism of the four emcees, and even the vocals seem better matched to the beats themselves. A phenomenal example of this is the song M.Y.O.B.

This is not to argue that each prior album is not absolutely awesome. We are huge Sandbag fans, the intellectual and enlightened lyrics are like old friends; blunt, honest, challenging our preconceptions, and still oddly comforting.  If one only listens, they could easily find several common themes many of us could identify with; struggling with the status quo, struggling to “succeed”, societal oppression, and the role of people power. Specifically though, Sloppy Jays brings the best overall sound experience of any of the Sandbag albums so far.

Sloppy Jays is available at Bull Moose Music and should soon by downloadable via Itunes. Keep your eye on the Sandbag facebook page for more information! Also, keep an eye out for our reviews of the other 4 albums on our list; coming soon!

Track Listing:


Well Laid Plan: “We wrote this so you would take notice” a sort of treatise on the power inherent in the Sandbag crew.

That Was Then: A short history of the individual members, an introduction to their love of hip-hop and the history of the band as a whole.

Book of Verse: One of our favorites; lots of heavy lyrics addressing the questionable integrity of popular music and questioning the potential for more legitimate artists.

Playmate: An interesting perspective into what it may feel like to be in the public eye, primarily about females… or a specific female.

M. Y. O. B. : Mind Your Own Business… one of our favorite tracks for its overall perfection. A track that delves deeper into the idea of constantly being in the public eye and encouraging people to, well, MYOB.

Forgive (Forget): Another more emotional song regarding relationships.

Mudane Lives ft. Kristina Kentigian: We really enjoy Kentigian’s vocals in this song, they make it really full and complete; the song is important to the success of the album as a whole. A definite favorite for its subject matter; themes that most creative or intellectual individuals trying to make their way through human society can identify with.

Downward Spiral: A perfect concluding track discussing judgment, deeper meanings of life, and final reckonings. Where can this crazy human existence be headed?

Flat Trumpets: This song is harder to summarize; some themes include inner strength, insanity of human society, and personal struggles.

Some of our favorite excerpts:

We write rhymes to right wrongs, bygones are bygones, but I’m gone with no retrieval, medieval dark ages, contagious thoughts breaking,  restraints at the round table, sound save you, play for the imaginations make for a new breakthrough, disdainful cause painful regret and false label, Strip the page through for the faithful like sacred songs of angles that we play you.

Got that inner focus so it isn’t hopeless, doing my thing to little or no notice, I’m less concerned with the outcome than the motives.

Small world still so many suffer, earth’s mother
Must we heed these sins, and take back our land?
Stand firm demand answers of the faculties of man?
3 bodies of the government, souless husks
Of a ponzi-scheme heirarchy going bust

Yea I’m in this rat race, I’m praying that I’m at least a tortoise, I’m at my poorest just to live in a house owned by corporate bank investor lobbyists with an American dream portrait, but as I gripe I think of the less fortunate, from the hungry to our soldiers being sent to wars for shit , pretending I know what horror is but I could never understand the mental baggage of shooting some armed foreign kid.

I just brave what I hate and I see what life has to offer.

Isaac Newton I’m assuming, is natural law defined by the guy that proves it?, that cycle stifles movement, we can fly but they got us staring at the sky asking (why) asking.., I work 28 hours a day, 9 days a week, 40 days a month and evade sleep, remain skeptical to western medicine, guess I’m just more Tesla than Edison….. Fascinated by the synchronicities, and the sick twisted histories of those who live in this city, get busy, make amends, sing with me break bread while we face the end.


Heads In Harmony Festival Moves to Last Breath Farm in Norridgewock, ME

The 2012 festival season is almost here! Heads in Harmony will be announcing their line up in less than a week for the Heads in Harmony 2 Festival “Energy Joins All” being held the weekend of September 27th-30th. Heads in Harmony and Greenbean Productions have decided to move this year’s event to Last Breath Farm in Norridgewock, ME (same location that Maine Electronic Music Fest was held last year). The farm has been owned by the Rogers Family for the past 250 years! It consists of 3 huge fields, a motor-cross track, a stage of it’s own, and great camping sites in the woods.

HIH2 “Energy Joins All” will be hosted by Greenbean Productions, a grass-roots promotional company out of Boston, MA. Greenbean Productions brought over 50 bands to last year’s Heads in Harmony festival at the Freedom Field in Harmony, ME including Otis Grove, The Breakfast, Dopapod, Wobblesauce, and Goosepimp Orchestra!  So far, this year’s line up for HIH2 “Energy Joins All” consists of The Jerry Garcia Band feat. Melvin Seals, Viral Sound, and Jammin’ Toast.

On Tuesday, March 13th, those three bands will be playing the Official Line-up Announcement Party at The Middle East (Downstairs) in Cambridge, MA! Tickets for Heads In Harmony 2 “Energy Joins All” will be buy 1 get 1 FREE at this show. The show starts at 8:30 and is 18+. Get your tickets for the Official Line-up Announcement Party Here! This will be an awesome show, and a great opportunity to save money on tickets to the festival you will have to attend this year!

Head over to the Heads in Harmony Website for more information about the “Energy Joins All” Festival in Norridgewock, ME
Grab your HIH2 tickets Here! (presale is only $50! $60 at the gate)
Join The Mailing List for any updates, information and news regarding HIH2!

The Medicine in the Icebox

Pt Burnem, Paulie Think, and Eyenine are Icebox.  Its hard not to have a physical reaction when an artist or performer gets into your personal space. Icebox chose to set up on the audience floor instead of on the stage where rappers and artists usually do their thing at the Big Easy. That was my first clue that this show would be unlike ay other rap show I had seen. A live Icebox show is a carefully constructed performance brought to life; not just an  auditory concept. They offer a more diverse experience that involves their audience, bringing you in as a contributing participant rather than allowing you to remain a passive observer. This performance style creates an environment that is very “in the moment” and organic. I had never seen or heard anything like it, and this increased it’s impact even more. It’s very powerful to be artfully drawn out of your own world-view long enough to really become part of something else, and Icebox seems to facilitate an environment where this is likely to happen!

I imagine taking 3 powerful players from the underground hip hop world and creating a super group has its difficulties. It must be a work of art to attempt to take the strengths of each person, and make them work as a part of a greater whole, rather than being the whole in and of itself. I think the performance aspect of the Icebox experience may originate in PT Burnem’s style, and I think it is important to executing the message that their powerfully and intellectually worded rhymes hold within. If you are feeling something, and not just listening to it, it has far greater impact. Eyenine has a style that I would have thought wouldn’t play well with others; usually involving insanely fast delivery and a specifically selected range of background beats and music. However, it appears he is highly adaptable and able to bring those strengths, but in a modified version that also facilitates and complements the groups “intended” sound (I assume I know what they intend). Paulie Think is the member I am least familiar with, but his style is integral to engaging the audience and it seems he may be the keystone of the group. He seems to fill the role of moderator and enabler; perhaps the individual whose personality and style is instrumental in creating the environment necessary for the Icebox phenomenon to fulfill its potential.

One cannot address the group without referencing what they are quite literally saying. The messages are powerful, articulate and often dark, but not overtly depressing. “We are connected, however ill directed” while simply put, is a powerful understatement that references not just the negative aspects of our species’ plight, but also the potential. Check out the video here:

The idea is to go experience Icebox live. The key aspect of the underground rap music scene, from an outsider’s perspective, is the interactive and direct intent to the music. It is not created in a void, and nor do they want it to be; there are messages to be received, lessons to be learned, and a powerful element of solidarity that can only be fully nourishing when experienced in the live performance. You need to see this group live because it is quite literally good for you. Just what the witch doctor ordered.

Check out the Icebox live show schedule below:


An Appeal to the People Who “Liked” Us Before We Wrote About Rap A Lot

This is an appeal to all the “fans” of The Way Live Should Be who liked us before we (Kim Morrison) started writing about rap a lot. I want to explain to you why you should come to Rap Night at the Big Easy, if you haven’t before. First, though, I am going to explain to you WHY I am going to be the one writing this appeal.

  1. I am completely naive on the subject.
  2. I  may have some understanding of the difference between the terms “hip hop”, “rap”, and “emcee”, but it’s still kinda shaky, so I don’t have the confidence to say them out loud.
  3. I grew up on Kiss and Collective Soul.
  4. My top ten favorite bands (which include The Talking Heads, Morphine, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Buckethead) do not include ANY “raphiphopemcees” .

To make it Clear, I am writing this piece with the Clear disclaimer that I Know Nothing! So, how can knowing nothing make me well equipped to write about something? The point I am going to try to make to You, the jam band lover, metal head, festival scene connoisseur, dub step raver, etc… is that you should really give the Portland, ME rap scene a chance. I have always been a hefty consumer of instrumental music; especially the kind you can go see live and there are musicians playing instruments right in front of you. (I do not mean to insinuate that hip hop cannot also be instrumental, of course it can!). I have always LOVED to dance, I mean really rock out, like people do at dub step shows or whatever. I have always told my hip-hop loving friends that I just couldn’t find anything in that genre that lit my brain up like Phish, or Primus, or Pretty Lights.

Well, I have now. I have only been to 2.5 rap shows at the Big Easy and I saw stuff I really didn’t enjoy. BUT. I also saw stuff I really, really appreciated.  As far as I know, there is almost always more than one artist at each rap night and they always end the night with open mic. So every time you check out Rap Night at the Big Easy you are guaranteed exposure to more than one style, artist, and/or sound. People come from all over the Northeast (Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, etc) to play at Rap Night and other Big Easy and Portland, ME hip hop shows. Many of them are super intelligent, enlightening, and skilled at what they do. I have absolutely NO knowledge of the culture, the history, or the technique of what these people are doing and yet I have found something to love every time. I even danced!

This is a tough article to write, because I don’t have the vocabulary. But I want to try to convey to you part of what has attracted Kim, and now me, to this scene.  Kim has been writing all these fantastic, thoughtful pieces on hip hop artists from Maine and New Hampshire and they are often full of constructive commentary on the scene as well. There is a strong sense of solidarity, a “from the ground up” phenomenon, that is occurring in the Portland, ME hip-hop world. It is something Kim and I both starve to see in all genres of local music in our area, but usually find lacking. It appears that the local emcees and rappers and hip-hoppers have been doing it fairly well, and for quite some time. Which is not to say there aren’t “problems”; problems sustaining whatever it is that is happening, problems with the media through which the word gets out, but at least they are mutually supportive and TRYING… trying to maintain a real life community. Go to rap night… if you talk with people you will feel it. Listen to the music; you will feel it. Pay attention to the “performers”; you will feel it. There is something that these people are doing that is worth experiencing, because we just haven’t seen anything like it in any other musical genres in our area. There is a real community of actual human beings involved, producing music, and supporting one another and it just… is amazing to witness.

I am not guaranteeing you will see this right away. I am not guaranteeing you will like the artists you see. What I am telling you is that I am someone who has no affinity for or understanding of the hip hop world and when I go to Rap Night at the Big Easy I just KNOW there is something special going on. And it is addictive.

So I recommend you read what Kim Morrison has been writing about in our past entries regarding local hip hop artists. There are some truly thoughtful observations and you might get turned on to one of the people she has written about; they are always insightful, intelligent, and committed to high quality craftsmanship. I recommend you come to more than one Rap Night at the Big Easy and get a feel for what is happening. I’m not sure I personally understand it yet, but I can still feel it and tap into it. I know that it is something unique, but it’s more than that. It’s something I feel is essential to the human experience!

Upcoming shows to try out.

Rap Night presents: Cam Groves, Trails, OD, and more! This upcoming Wednesday Jan 25


The 5th Annual Ruckus Cup Classic Emcee Battle Friday February 3

Rap Night every Wednesday at the Big Easy; stay tuned to the Rap-Night Portland facebook page to find out who will perform!

Written by Heather Omand

Rap-O-Lantern by Kim Morrison

The Intergalactic Nemesis: A Good Idea Turned Into A Gimmick


Q- What is The Intergalactic Nemesis?
A- It’s watching a great idea get ruined by a terrible comic.

When I was offered a ticket to see The Intergalactic Nemesis, a live action, radio play, graphic novel spectacle, I was initially excited. “What a great idea; actors reading in character, fifty by fifty comic frames, a sound effects guy and piano accompaniment…how has no one done this before?” I thought. When I saw The Intergalactic Nemesis, I was disappointed: “That really should have been better, especially for a first of its kind multimedia event. That story was lackluster as fuck.” As I attempt to write this review, I’m down right pissed.

Sitting through this affair was like watching M. Night Shyamalan’s whole career in two hours. I went from being as giddy as a school child, to being bored and ready to call it quits early, to frothing with rage. The Intergalactic Nemesis follows spunky girl reporter, Molly Sloan, her eternally cock teased boy assistant, Timmy Mendez, and the guy from terminator, who was sent back in time by the robots. The trio spend the bloated run time of this performance scurrying through what felt like two completely different stories, as they struggled to save the earth by committing mass genocide on a villainous alien race that was given absolutely no motivation for their dickery, except looking like slimy alligators. The first half was, contextually, fairly decent. It had a lot of hokey set pieces, like a haunted mansion. It at least had something resembling a solid tone. Then, the intermission came and everything that followed went right off the rails. First thing after intermission they pulled a “wait nevermind” on the cliffhanger they had just set up. Then, there as an alien robot, and they are fighting the slime monsters and ohh my god this just sucks now. I really am not going to waste my time attempting summarize what Jason Neulander just tried to pass off as a story here. The Galactic Nemesis is terrible. It’s a spliced together mess of a plot, and the only reason it’s making any headway is because of the cool idea they are using as a cheap gimmick. And that is where the anger really starts.

If sitting through that steamer of a story wasn’t bad enough, what really got me down into the pits of internet complaining was the general wastefulness of this production. I’m going to apologize to all the offended Galactic Nemesis fans, because I don’t know anything about this production’s history, and I may be completely off base. Here is what I think brought about this spectacular waste of time: Jason Neulander got an idea to do a live action comic book thing, but he didn’t want to write a whole new piece, because that would be too much work. So, he reworked the whole Intergalactic Nemesis thing, and found some artist to pen some cells, and BAM, a great idea is ruined by a lazy bastard. This is my biggest gripe with The Intergalactic Nemesis. In a few years, if some talented story-teller comes along and writes a graphic novel that is leaps and bounds beyond The Intergalactic Nemesis (a feat your average grade schooler could accomplish), and then wants to do the live action thing, their work will forever be in the shadow of this mess. The producers here took a great idea and forgot that it would need a great story to go with it. They wasted the freshness of this concept on a lousy script. So, go see The Intergalactic Nemesis when it comes to New England (Hartford CT, Concord NH), but I guarantee you will leave the theater feeling like you just got tricked into giving up your virginity in some cheap motel room.

-Corey LayHee

2011 Rap Radar

We wanted to take a minute to mention some of the albums that have hit our radar throughout 2011. Not all of them came out in 2011…but most of them!

This album is great! The thing I love most about a lot of these songs is Kirby Dominant’s willingness to address both the potential absurdity of interacting with people (“Weed Man”), and the typical insecurities that often preoccupy our minds. Kirby basically introduces himself as a whale in the second track (“Orca”): “I feel like a whale, I look like a whale/I drink like a whale, can’t you fuckin tell?/I’m drownin in the sea of life…” (Watch the video Here). This is an interesting claim…but a little self-deprecation is always amusing, and helps to create some balance in terms of the tone of the album. The next track is “Feeling Inside” and it makes me want to celebrate life for a minute or two. (“This song is beautiful, oh my god!”) They released the video for this track earlier this month.
Check it out:

While some typical aspects of rap and hip hop can be found on this album (testosterone driven wordplay, bangin’ beats, & swagger), they are all filtered through the Paranoid Castle perspective. Which consists of a pleasant balance between honor and mockery.
To thoroughly enjoy this album: Buy It, Appreciate Satire.

  • TrailsTrails &Co. EP – November 2011

Trails consists of rapper Syn The Shaman and producer/DJ theLin. The chemistry is spot on between these two, and it really creates a seamless delivery both on stage and on the Trails & Co. EP. Four local artists are featured throughout the EP: O.D., Ill By Instinct, Kristina Kentigian, and ALT (who is featured on three out of the six tracks) all make this EP extra enjoyable! Get some Trails tunes Here!

Here’s the Trails video for the track “It Goes On” which is not actually on this EP…It’s on their full length album Fits & Starts (2010), but it’s one of the stronger tracks on the album, and really represents the evolved style that is displayed on the Trails&Co. EP.

  • El Shupacabra (The Floppy Disk Jockey) – Shupe’s Back – 2011

El Shupacabra is personally a trusted source within the Portland scene. Shupe is approximately 25% of the local group Sandbag, and holds down the weekly Rap Night at The Big Easy. He seems to be constantly contributing to the local scene, yet manages to stay a bit elusive…which is why I have no links in this section, and I can’t really tell you where to get this album, other than come to Rap Night sometime and see if he has any left.

Hell, we’re lucky there’s video of the performance at Geno‘s the night he released Shupe’s Back:

I’m pretty sure he took some material he had kickin’ around and threw the whole thing together in under a week. And it’s damn good. Ill By Instinct prays on Track 5 (“IBI’s Prayer”), and MC 22 is featured on Track 8, “Eat Your Dinner.” Go find Shupe’s Back. It’s sentimental and progressive. And probably like, 3 bucks.

I saw his Homeless performance back in September when he was on tour with Aceyalone, and I really dug it. I hadn’t listened to any of his recorded stuff yet though, and I think he’s still working on capturing his live energy in his recordings. Homeless has a style of his own, but he’s feelin’ things out still. He makes a lot of direct references in his songs that seem to carry his weight. I wanna know what effect these references have directly on his perspective. It’s interesting to know what influences someone, but it’s more interesting to find out why. I really like the song “Sophia Loren.” It’s personal. First person narrative revealing some truth.

Here’s the video for the song “Dream World”:

MC Homeless is working closely with some great artists…I’m pretty excited to see how his sound evolves. Keepin’ an eye on this cat!

Stay posted about Homeless stuff on Facebook, Check the album out Here

  • Adeem – Made in New Hampshire – Adeem & DJ MF Shalem – 2011

Sooo…I haven’t actually listened to this album yet, but I got to hear this song off of it: “Get It
I dig this track, and I’m into Adeem in general. Plus, he’s representin’ NH, and so am I (for now). You can grab the album Here. (This is also a Note to Self)

  • Lady Essence – Right Now – Aug 2011 – P. Dank. Check out the interview and album review Here

Check out some of this stuff if you haven’t! I made it super easy for you. Links and videos galore.
I’d also like to mention that I’ve seen all of these acts live at Rap Night in Portland at The Big Easy. Wednesday Nights.

Lady Essence: “Right Now” Album Review and Interview

Lady Essence released her first solo album, Right Now, this past August. Essence is channeling the creative aspects of rap, and addressing a lot of relevant social and political issues while delivering strong insight into herself as a person and an artist. Don’t get caught up on the arrangement of her chromosomes or you’ll be missin’ the point.

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