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!

Category Archives: Show Reviews

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.

-Heather

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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

SPDRHRTS, PT BURNEM, FREE STEAK DINNER, 32 FRENCH @ Geno’sThurs. Jan. 26

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

Rap Night 10/26 with Spose & Sly Chi, Educated Advocates, and In The Attic

Last Wednesday’s Rap Night was epic on many levels! There was great support for the scene and mutual respect for artists and everyone involved.

In The Attic really set the vibe, gettin’ the crowd going with a seamless delivery. It was pretty impressive how spot on they were, especially because one of their members (O*Zee) actually wasn’t able to make it. Apparently some work best under pressure. Lady Essence and Shane Reis came together and shared some songs off their upcoming mixtape! So, if you weren’t there, then you missed it….know what I’m sayin?

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Rap Night! Every Wednesday at The Big Easy

Rap Night has welcomed me with open arms, so I’m feelin’ the need to extend an invitation out to ya’ll. It seems as though I’ve stumbled upon some of the hardest working kids on the scene, delivering intellectual content over beats to kill.

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Some Words with Adam Gold of Sophistafunk!

 

 


On March 3 of this year the members of The Way Live Should Be (WLSB) went to see Dumpstaphunk at Port City Music Hall in Portland. The show was amazing, but it was the opening band that night that really caught our attention, largely because we had never heard of them before. Their name is Sophistafunk, from Syracuse, NY, and the core members consist of; Jack Brown – vocals, lyrics; Adam Gold – keys, bass, vocals and Emanuel Washington – drums. They describe their sound as, “Combining hip hop & spoken-word with the sounds of live funk, soul, & dance music, the trio SOPHISTAFUNK has invented its own style of cross-genre music”. We would agree! From the seriously talented percussive skills of Washington, to the pick-up-my-Moog and dance around the stage antics of Gold, and the enlightened, brilliant lyrics of Brown… these guys really caught our attention. Imagine our excitement to hear they would be playing The Way Life Should Be Festival (no relation) in Brooks, ME this coming June! A well traveled, really funkin’ fun band from New York, back again? We had to hear what they thought about Maine from their last trip!

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Interview with The Rustic Overtones!

The Rustic Overtones played a great show at The Stone Church in New Market, NH on Friday 9/10.

Dave Gutter was kind enough to meet with TWLSB after the show so we could ask a few questions about the band. Enjoy!

TWLSB: You guys all took a break for a while, right?

DG: Yea, we took a break for about 4 years.

TWLSB: You all kind of went your own ways, each going through individual musical growth, so was it difficult to pick back up where you left off?

DG: It wasn’t actually…it was a very natural progression getting back together. I think someone once said that it’s like riding a bike with five of your other friends. It was a really good thing, we all kind of missed it a lot. We all love the music and love the shows. It’s a real natural energy that I think we missed a lot. As soon as we got back together it was very invigorating and fun.

TWLSB: How did Nigel Hall come into the picture?

DG: Nigel is a good friend of ours. He’s actually played with us for a while, just casually jamming with us a lot. He has like 5 gigs, so it’s really difficult to nail him down for one show with us. It was a huge pleasure to have him work with us on the album. We got him out on the road with us right after the album came out, and a little bit before, but he’s definitely got a lot going on.

TWLSB: Your songs seem to have quite a range in style…is this due to a wide range of influences?

DG: Yea, it’s a huge democracy of all these influences that come from every different member. It started off as a real cluster fuck of all the influences, but it finally got to a point where we kind of honed in on which influences to use. And when we’re under those influences….well it’s just a compromise. Like, Tony listens to Slayer and Ryan listens to Charlie Parker, so you can’t really put those two together. So we took a while experimenting what styles we can put together, and we came up with some pretty unique things, and that’s kind of how our songs evolved.

TWLSB: What have you been listening to lately?

DG: I’ve been listening to a band called White Denim lately. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop. There’s some Kanye West stuff that hasn’t been out on the album yet. There are these singles that’ve been leaked on the internet, real good newer stuff. I like the new OK Go record too. And The Flaming Lips.

TWLSB: Are you writing new material? How does that usually work?

DG: I usually write a lot of songs on my acoustic guitar, and I’ll bring it to the guys and they usually shape-shift the whole thing. I come with skeletons or blue prints of songs that are very open to interpretation and change. Aside from the lyrics, the whole thing can change sometimes, and I’m open to that. It’s good to have everyone from the band kind of put their stamp on it.

TWLSB: How was it starting out in Maine? Is Portland a good output?

DG: It’s challenging as far as getting out of Portland and getting to other places, but it’s a really inspirational place to live. Portland is a very beautiful, peaceful place as far as writing from your soul, and creating some really pure music. There are so many great bands there, but like some of the bands that practice in the studio next to us, they don’t even play out. It’s hard to get out in Maine.
Until recently, there was a huge lack of clubs for people to play. Even now, for like really good hip-hop, punk rock, or hard-core there’s still a lack of clubs and underage clubs. That’s the thing that’s hard about Portland; is actually getting your music out there and getting out of Portland and touring. As far as writing though, all the bands from Portland are amazing writers.

TWLSB: So how long did it take you guys to push out of Portland?

DG: We probably toured out of state when we were about 19. As soon as we could, really. You gotta try to get out of your hometown to achieve success.
TWLSB: You got out, but you still seem to stick within.
DG: Yea, we are really, really faithful and loyal to Portland, as much as we can be. We love Portland.

TWLSB: What was your most effective output though, did the record labels help most?

DG: Nope. It was getting out there and playing in front of people. The live thing is way more personal than a record. It’s so hard to reach people sometimes with a record. You know, they’re doing something else and listening to the record usually. But when it’s live, I’m the guy with the loud microphone and big lights, and you can pay attention and soak it in.
TWLSB: You guys definitely have soul to your performances too, and that energy can’t be delivered as well through a record.
DG: *Jokingly* Well, we’re lip synching, but I’m still feeling it.

TWLSB: Any local music in the Portland area you can recommend?

DG: An artist named Thommy, he’s an artist I work with that I really like. There’s a band named Brenda…Brenda is amazing. I really like Gypsy Tailwind, Grand Hotel, Plains, which is actually Dave Noyes’ band. There’s a ton of bands in Portland that I’m really into.

TWLSB: What record labels have you guys worked with?
DG: Our first major label was Arista. Then we signed with Tommy Boy, and then we signed with Velour…the labels passed us around for a while.

TWLSB: What’s the biggest show The Rustic Overtones have played?

DG: This one, The Stone Church definitely. *laughs* It’s hard to say… There was a show in Connecticut, I think it’s called The Meadows. It’s kind of an interesting story. A good friend of mine gave me some pot brownies, and they didn’t work. They were so delicious though, so everybody, even people that don’t get high ate all the pot brownies. We were like ‘ yea they don’t work anyway, so don’t worry about it.’ About 4 hours later it kicked in, and we were about to go out in front of something like 40,000 people. And well, that was our biggest show.
TWLSB: How’d it go?
DG: Oh it went great. I don’t really remember much of it, but it was definitely a good show.

TWLSB: How come you guys don’t play up in the Umaine Orono area anymore?

DG: Well they used to do Bumstock and stuff, but there’s no place to play up there really…
TWLSB: Come to The Dime! It’s an excellent place to play.
DG: Is it? That’s good to know. They asked us to play a while back but I think we were really busy at the time. Good to know, though, we’ll keep it in mind.

TWLSB: Any advice for bands starting out or young musicians?

DG: You have to get out there, play at any place any time you can when you first start out. And even though it’s hard, don’t play Sweet Home Alabama and then mix in your original stuff. Just get out there, play straight original stuff, and believe in it. Don’t feel like you have to rely on throwing Free Bird into the set. Try to really stand behind your original music when you start out, and people will eventually believe in it too.

Thanks again to Dave Gutter and The Rustic Overtones for their time and an excellent show, and Devon Mitchell for setting everything up!
We highly recommend that you all catch a live show of this local minded down to earth rockin’ band from Portland, ME.
Go to http://www.therusticovertones.com/ to check out tour dates!

Victor Wooten Band Live at Port City Music Hall 6/25/2010

The Victor Wooten Band show Friday night was unreal! Recently I have had friends expose me to jazz fusion greats like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jean Luc Ponty, and I have watched those youtube videos always wondering what it would be like to be in the audience. I think I got a glimpse Friday night.

The Victor Wooten band is Victor on bass, Regi Wooten (older bro) on guitar, Steve “White Chocolate” Winegard on keys, and Derico Watson on drums. Their incredible blend of jazz funk fusion helped me to understand what the people in the audience of those older shows I watched on youtube experienced. The night was full of insane soloing, musical battles between members, and complicated, intricate musical climaxes involving the entire band. A song would start off with some structure, beginning as songs Victor fans may recognize. But they would quickly transcend into jazzy, but exuberantly playful and technical forays into unexpected territory. Some songs had much heavier bass and were infinitely funkier. Victor’s signature style can be picked out anywhere, but when you see him on his “solo” project you are better able to see him play the bass as if he as a person, encompassing all of himself and his powers of expression, were completely funneled through his instrument. At one point he teasingly almost told us the time signature to one of his songs, but refused in the end… however you can tell that these musicians are skilled masters of timing and unreal alterations in traditional music techniques. The music was filled with continual redirection as band members would just point to one another and all of a sudden a different person would take the lead and bring the music to an entirely different place. Steve’s outrageous key solos started off traditional, very classy jazz-esque, and then transported me to outer space with his technicality, and then back to Mexico with something very “mariachi” like. Sometimes, it made me feel like I was falling, but like in-a-dream falling… pure insanity! I have never before had the privilege to be exposed to such a free form jazzy funk escapade and I am thankful for the experience! As for Regi, I have seen some guitarists slap their instrument a little, something like when a bassist plays slap, but never ever before with the gusto and consistency as Regi Wooten. He was pulling sounds from his guitar that I didn’t even know existed. His style was almost chaotic, frenzied in some of his wilder, but wonderful solos. At one point he was flinging his arms wide and swooping them in every time he slapped it, another he and Victor battled back and forth; ever faster and more technical and more flamboyant, another he and Victor stood face to face playing eachother’s instruments so intensely that I could NOT believe my eyes, or ears! I hope you are getting the point here; MINDBLOWING would really be the key word. Yet I cannot stop without addressing Derico Watson’s intense drumming skills. I swear this man played a 15-20 minutes drum solo… at least 10 minutes of that with the entire place COMPLETELY blacked out, pitch freakin dark, with no light except tiny glowsticks attached to the very end of his sticks. This man’s sense of rhythm, of multiplicity, and timing was incredible. I could have listened to Derico Watson play the entire show solo, his drumming skills were so impressive and fulfilling. Victor made a point of mentioning that Derico only uses one foot pedal, calling him the “One Foot Wonder”.

The Victor Wooten Band played several Michael Jackson tunes (as apparently it was Jackson’s death day) and some references to other classic funk like “Rollercoaster of Love”. Victor also spoke extensively with us about his experience that morning waiting in line in NY for a new Iphone from 1 a.m. until 5a.m. His story was funny, but also refreshing with quotes like, “Now usually waiting in line for a cell phone for hours is against my nature. (many people laughed and one audience member yelled, “Nice phone though isn’t it?” Victor replied, “It’s a damn fine phone, yeah”) But everyone in the line, we all started telling stories and by the end of it all, we were all friends.” He also told of the floods in his hometown down south and while he had been lucky that his house has not been affected, many of his neighbor’s houses were and his camp had lost 3 buildings… all swept away. He spoke about community and coming together in crises… it was moving and really completed the experience for me. As did getting to take a picture of Regi Wooten with my friends Nate and Lisa, although I was too shy to get one myself.

All in all, this was a an incredible night full of banter, a chance to personally connect with musicians, and truly talented, mind blowing music. I really, really hope you were there

Review: Hot Day at the Zoo and Railroad Earth at Port City Music Hall

There I was again, at the mercy of Hot Day at the Zoo’s infinitely uplifting sound. HDATZ opened for Railroad Earth at the Port City Music Hall, Portland, ME this past Thursday and it was NOT a show to miss. I had actually never, ever listened to Railroad Earth before in any form, but I figured that they had to be good if HDATZ was opening for them. I won’t lie about the fact that I mainly went to see HDATZ and I wasn’t disappointed. I tell you, these gentlemen speak in String. They played three of my favorite songs off of their newer albums called Mama, One Day Soon, and Ana Maribel…. all crazy excellent jams with great, saucy lyrics. I am still waiting to hear Old Mill… but that just means I have one (of many) main reasons to continue putting HDATZ at the top of my “Go See” list. Covers included No Expectations by The Rolling Stones (truly far better as a bluegrass song.. it was meant to be) and Foxy Lady (always SO fun!). Their sound is very fulfilling, incredibly uplifting, and yet still has an edgy side that I am extremely addicted to. Those four instruments (mandolin, banjo, guitar, and standing bass) combine in ways my brain cannot fathom… I especially noticed that night that the mandolin player is able to weave in and out of the music like the wind. Hot Day at the Zoo is playing a bunch this summer and I recommend going to see them as a necessary life experience!
I repeat that Thursday was my first experience with Railroad Earth live or otherwise. I was extremely impressed and it was quite evident that each of the members of the band are incredibly talented and skillful musicians. Railroad Earth consists of banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, drums, and standing bass. But don’t let that fool you… the banjo player also played guitar, flute, slide steel, and (possibly most epic) two saxophones at once (in the song Hard Livin’… a favorite of mine for the evening). Literally one sax in each hand… I’ve never seen that before! I was very impressed. Other members were similarly versatile, both the mandolin player and fiddle player switched instruments and picked up guitars at various points. I’ve never really seen so much instrument switching, and it added to the fluidity and variety of their sound. I would describe their style as full of entire body-moving, wholesome, earthy tunes with many traditional references. However they also have a strong originality, likely due to the ridiculous skill level of each individual musician. I am NOT a religious individual, but each song was like a prayer… full of spirituality and soulfulness. Some of their songs almost seemed to reference Grateful Dead and multiple times throughout the evening I felt in many ways that they were the bluegrass version of GD, due to their free-form jams and the fact that their songs build, crash and build again like waves, but with many different hypnotic riffs and sounds that completely captivate the audience. Often their songs would vividly invoke imagery of rivers, a breeze through trees…especially the songs where the banjo player played the flute.
As I mentioned earlier I am addicted to music that has some undercurrent of tension, some kind of edginess. For me, that was the only aspect missing in Railroad Earth’s music… but that’s a personal preference. If you like String Cheese or Grateful Dead I believe you will LOVE Railroad Earth… those three bands make up a genre all on their own in my opinion. And I do have to say that there are only two bands I have seen in my life that I would describe as a venerable “wall of sound”… music that hits you from head to toe… that has no gaps or unfilled spaces… music that you literally feel like you just walked into a wall (a cushy, wonderful wall). Previously those bands were just Radiohead and Dave Matthews Band, but I would say Railroad Earth also is a “wall of sound” band and it’s an experience/label I am very specific about and that I make a point of pursuing.
To sum it up… I was blown away by Railroad Earth’s musicianship and unique sound. And as always… I somehow ended up head banging for HDATZ… those guys are probably tied for first with my absolute favorite up and coming band.

GO SEE LIVE MUSIC!

CHAOS SAUCE: Interview & Show Review!

Chaos Sauce played an incredible show Friday night and we have started to believe that this is Orono/Old Town area’s most underexposed, yet incredibly skilled local band. Their set was filled with exceedingly and excellently executed covers by Rage Against the Machine and also quite a few Red Hot Chili Pepper’s songs from Mother’s Milk… one of the best RHCP albums ever. Their covers reference the awesomeness of the originals, yet when Chaos Sauce plays them, the songs don’t feel like covers. They are played with such energy and talent that they feel almost like Chaos Sauce originals. Which, in fact, are quite incredible as well and include Idiot Blood (named after some idiot who came to a CS show after getting into a fight and then proceeded to bleed all over CS’s stuff), Moose on Fire, Computer Malfunction (MGMT esque…. But way better!) and many more. The most interesting aspect of this band is their highly dynamic, almost amoeba-like nature. Every song changes who plays what instrument, some band members come back on stage, others go become part of the crowd… its such an awesome aspect of this band because it adds to their fluidity while each combination acts like a different component of an overall creative project.

Chaos Sauce’s music is pretty hardcore, but it’s also way, way more than that. They are playful, talented, and their stage presence, energy, and interaction with the crowd makes for such an incredibly good time. I have never seen a flying, cow bell jamming leap ever before…. But I tell you it’s a sight damn worth seeing. They are constantly jumping around stage, standing on the drums, and just intensely jamming your face off. Their vocals are awesome, the musicianship is mind blowing, and they have more vehemence than we have seen in the local area bands yet. You are seriously missing out if you do not see this band.

As with many good bands, Chaos Sauce’s members have changed throughout the years, but many core members have been jamming together in different forms since high school. Most of the band is from the Rockland or Portland, Maine area and their influences include; RHCP, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Sound Garden, and The Mars Volta. It all started with a talent show in high school where they tied for first, and they’ve been playing ever since.

Way Live Should Be: “How do you decide what covers you do? What is the process in creating your originals?”

CS: “The vocals often decide our choices of songs, and obviously we look to certain bands. Usually someone proposes something and then we decide as a band. Our originals just start as jams, evolve, go through a very organic process and usually the vocals come last. We just kick out some beats and build up from there.”

WLSB: “Where did the name Chaos Sauce come from?”

CS: *some muttering about a dog named Chaos* “Well basically its meant to have many different meanings and to be very interpretive. We are large groups of friends switching it up on stage… it’s a huge creative.. sauce. It’s a creative chaos… its what it needs to be I guess.”

WLSB: “How would you describe your music?”

CS: “Its very experimental; we play with a lot of different time signatures; really keeps people guessing, interested, and it’s a challenge. It sounds like Chaos, but we are constantly reaching new levels. We like to try and bring a new musical act to the scene, something our audience would have no prior experience with… a feeling of going somewhere you haven’t gone before. Maybe that means you can’t follow everything if you just hear us once.. it takes practice. I think its important that the crowd doesn’t know what the hell is about to happen, but wants it. It’s really about a different way to think about time.”

WLSB: “What has been the band’s most formative experience so far?”

CS: “A few years back some of the band members went to California to see what would happen musically out there. We lived in the ghetto, didn’t really have any electrical equipment, and we couldn’t find work enough to sustain our life style. Yet it was basically a year long writing session… a spiritual journey even. Now, our music reflects that experience… it was a huge part of our life experience so far.”

WLSB: “Anything else you would like to say about the band?”

CS: “Yeah…. We think the best part of our band is that fact that members are constantly filling in, sitting out, rotating… when one of us gets off stage they become part of the audience and its an important part of our band that we have that experience… we are both the producers and the observers of our creative process. Its less formal, very collective, and for us it really works seamlessly”
(I couldn’t agree more.. this is definitely a crucial part of the CS live experience!)

WSLB: “What does the future hold for CS?”

CS: “Well we will be playing gigs throughout the summer in Rockland and we may have a Jersey Shore gig… This Friday at the Umaine Augusta campus from 5-10pm we are playing in a competition and the winner opens for Rustic Overtones! Some of our members will be moving around, but the band will keep rocking. We hope to play some festivals… we never turn down a gig. Even if the crowd may not be expecting what we bring, we think we can offer something to everyone. We played Woodman’s recently and weren’t sure how we would be received… but it ended up being an awesome experience. We play as we are and who we are every show no matter the venue or crowd.”

Thanks so much to Chaos Sauce for hanging out with The Way Live Should Be on Friday… we had a fucking blast at your show.

Collaborative review by Heather Omand and Kim Morrison

Hot Day at the Zoo: Stringin’ Unity Along, Saturday 4/17/2010

 Hot Day at the Zoo played in Unity, Me last night at the Unity College Center for the Performing Arts. If you have never experienced this band, as was the case with me prior to last night, I highly recommend going to see them open for Railroad Earth Thursday, May 13th in Portland. Hot Day at the Zoo as I saw them last night is Jon Cumming (banjo, dobro, vocals), Michael Dion (guitar, harmonica, vocals,) Jed Rosen (upright bass, vocals), and JT Lawrence (mandolin, vocals). If you are into the bluegrass scene then I would compare them to Yonder Mountain String Band in some ways (even playing a few of the same traditional tunes), although if Yonder has their heads in the clouds then Hot Day at the Zoo have their feet firmly planted on the ground. Their sound is so full of earthy soul, traditional bluegrass, and a certain unique element that leads their fans to describe their sound as “zoograss”.

One of the first aspects of their dynamic sound that struck me was their exquisitely high level of energy. Bluegrass often has elements of solidarity and soul combined with extended jamming, but HDATZ lead me to wonder how bluegrass can be so badass… I was almost headbanging at one point! The band is exquisitely capable of pushing their music to higher and higher levels of intensity using a traditional (bluegrass) medium of expression of intense emotionality and spirituality. Jeff Austin, mandolin player of Yonder Mountain, once said “bluegrass is as old as dirt” and I think Hot Day at the Zoo have found a way to bring a deeply traditional sound into the modern scene like none other. I think the banjo is a an iconic example of this; Cumming is an excellent picker able to elicit almost alternative sounds from a most traditional instrument. Songs played included “No Expectations” originally by the Rolling Stones, “Foxy Lady” the infamous Jimi tune (INCREDIBLE interpretation of this song… loved it!), and many of their own tunes including “Long Way Home”, “Mercy of the Sea”, and Cumming’s “Fire Down the Road”. Influences include many traditional bluegrass songs, the Dead, the Beatles, and Johnny Cash.

Most of the band has been playing for seven years, with the exception of Lawrence who joined about a year and half ago. However, they play with a kind of cohesion and chemistry that is so infectious that you, the audience, feel like part of the family. The mandolin is often so extreme and vibrant (paired with those wonderful “mandolin faces”) and downright pretty that you can’t avoid being swept away. The ability of the mandolin and banjo to blend, and then duel, and then become one again really blew my mind. Their music as a whole is so full of earthiness and quintessence that it literally invokes images of an almost desert peacefulness; vast, wide open spaces where man is humbled. Some aspects of this solid sound include the bassist’s jazzy references. Rosen alternated between a gorgeous traditional upright bass and “Black Betty”; an electric standing bass that he had purchased that day at Down Home Music in Waterville, ME (yay for supporting local business!). When I asked Rosen about the differences between the two he mentioned that the traditional upright was, “naturally acoustic, more organic, and slappable” while the electric was, “a whole new experience and really requires adjusting the way I play. It has a different tone and a rounder sound that really fills the chords.” Apparently it doesn’t work with the slapping style however as, “I slapped the E string right off of it today!” The audience’s reaction to the new toy; “That bass just put a shot put through my chest!” (thanks to Noah S).

Again, HDATZ’s real power is in their ability to become their music and collectively control the audience. The mandolin serenades and lifts you, the bass grounds you, the twang of the banjo (personally my favorite instrument of all time) moves you, and the acoustic guitar and elements of harmonica hold it all together. And please don’t forget their ability to beautifully belt out tunes that invoke and fulfill the needs of the human soul. In fact, Dion, who plays the guitar and harmonica and sings, also plays a really incredible instrument called the cajon that has a lot of history to it. It essentially looks like a wooden box that Dion plays beats on, but that becomes a percussion sound I have never before experienced. When asked about it Dion said, “It’s a traditional Afro Peruvian instrument that essentially has an internal snare drum. Its really an entire drum kit in a box”. Look it up folks; combining solidarity, history, and culture… I love it! The elements of traditionality in their music bring the human psyche to a feel good frenzy as only great bluegrass can… but HDATZ keeps an edgier feel to their music that is a new element for me and really keeps the listener interested. Their use of suspenseful pauses accents their music and allows it to overload your senses. As a band HDATZ combines jazz and classical references with a unique zoograss sound. I highly, highly recommend seeing this band live; remember: Thursday, May 13th they open up for Railroad Earth in Portland, ME… it’s going to be an existential experience.