Archive | Music

World-renowned pianist to perform with Marquette Symphony Orchestra

Posted on 03 February 2011 by WarriorAdmin

Marquette prides itself on providing an education that fosters the development of mind and spirit, but it also offers countless chances for students to expand their knowledge beyond academic courses. Unfortunately, many times valuable opportunities pass by unnoticed.

Luckily, at least one such opportunity awaits the Marquette community in the very near future.

Each year, the Marquette Symphony Orchestra invites a soloist to join them for their winter concert. This year’s guest will be world-renowned pianist Jeff Hwaen Ch’uqi. Born in Peru and blinded at an early age, Ch’uqi was abandoned by his biological parents before being adopted and brought to live in Pennsylvania by George and Inez Tomlinson. This is where, at the age of five, he was introduced to the instrument that would eventually earn him respect with an international music audience.

Ch’uqi attended Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York, where he studied piano performance and, during his freshman year, roomed with the current conductor of the Marquette Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Jason Ladd. Since graduating, he has established himself in numerous countries, touring the U.S., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Russia, and Taiwan, among others.

At the end of the month, Ch’uqi’s travels will bring him to our university, to share his story and talents on a campus where the arts are often overlooked.

On Feb. 27, Ch’uqi will take to the stage alongside the 37-piece orchestra in the Varsity Theatre, as they perform Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, but the concert will be only one bullet point on his to-do list while on campus. Throughout the week leading up to the performance, Ch’uqi will be offering free, hour-long piano lessons to any interested students. No experience required.

Kali MacDonald, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and treasurer of the orchestra, hopes this will be an opportunity for students to embrace and appreciate the presence of musical organizations on campus.

“The people who are involved in music definitely give a lot of recognition to the music,” she said. “It’s kind of like high school, where all the sports events were huge to go to, but music concerts weren’t.”

The orchestra’s secretary, sophomore Eric Stolz, shares the same goals for their future. He has even envisioned a fusion of contemporary music and orchestral technique that would be sure to engage a wider audience.

“I think it would be cool if we did a pops concert,” he said, adding that perhaps if the orchestra took on a Lady Gaga compilation, more people would get excited about attending performances.

Until then, there is still plenty to look forward to. The excitement demonstrated by the orchestra’s leaders proves the dedication and dynamic capability of the group. With greater support from students and faculty alike, it can only continue to grow.

Ch’uqi has made a commitment to share his talent with the entire university. Marquette, let’s show him what a strong community we really are.

by Amanda Stewart
[email protected]

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Peter Mulvey memorial concert for Dr. John McCabe

Posted on 08 December 2010 by WarriorAdmin

In an age where all signs point to the future, it is important to occasionally step back and remember those who contributed to the past.

On Nov. 16, Friends and Alumni/ae of Marquette English (FAME) held its first event of the year, celebrating the life of English professor Dr. John McCabe, who passed away in December of 2000. The event gave his former colleagues and students a chance to share their favorite memories of Dr. McCabe, and was followed by a free performance by his nephew, folk singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey.

Mulvey graduated from the Marquette theater program in 1991 and shortly afterward found himself working full time as a street performer in the Boston subway system, where, according to his website, he mastered his guitar playing and storytelling talents. Since then, Mulvey has produced 12 studio albums and toured internationally, even sharing the stage with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson and the Indigo Girls.

But for this special occasion, Mulvey took time out of his hectic life as an entertainer to honor his late uncle, who impacted so many in the Marquette community.

“As our first event of the year, we could think of no better event to put on than a memorial to Dr. John McCabe, who served Marquette and its English Department for 33 years,” said C.J. Hribal, the Louise Edna Goeden Professor of English, who emceed the event. “His spirit was such that still… we consult our WWJD bracelets, which does not stand for ‘What would Jesus do?’ but for ‘What would John do?”

For nearly a half an hour, stories of Dr. McCabe’s wisdom and antics were shared with the audience, which included many of his close relatives. From the deep respect he earned from his unwavering professionalism to his referral to his hospital bed as his “launch pad,” the spirit of McCabe came to life through these tributes. Even those who did not know him understood how he was adored by those around him, and just how much he is still missed.

Mulvey took the stage and treated the crowd to a rare exhibit of pure songwriting talent, intricately forming words into lyrics. With nothing more than a guitar and a raspy, Springsteen-esque voice, he put on a show worthy of commendation.

His songs embrace simple subjects, such as stargazing and memories of performing in a small tavern in Ft. Atkinson, and yet they are constructed in a thought-provoking way that any music lover could appreciate. Who knew having a beer with an astrophysicist named Vlad could turn into a philosophical contemplation of the cosmos?

Mulvey expressed regret for never taking one of his uncle’s courses while he was an undergraduate student. He did, however, prove Dr. McCabe’s lasting effect on him.

“I was reading the AP Punctuation manual on my flight,” he said. “Marquette can put a notch in its belt for that one.”

All in all, the event was a chance to step back and be thankful for those who are able to teach us and shape who we become.

“The evening was a smashing success, I would say,” said FAME chair and English lecturer Grace Mazza Urbanski in an e-mail. “We had a marvelous mixture of McCabe family members, English alumni, faculty members and current students. Peter gave a fantastic concert.”

FAME’s next event will be held on Jan. 30 in the Alumni Memorial Union.  It will feature a book swap and donation, along with other activities for the Marquette and Milwaukee community to aid in their goal of “promoting a lifelong love of reading and writing” as well as uniting current Marquette students and faculty with alumni of the university.

by Amanda Stewart
[email protected]

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The real DJs of Marquette: turning pubs into clubs

Posted on 10 November 2010 by WarriorAdmin

DJ Firstgrade DJed at a party in Madison.

Former Marquette student Alex Curran, also known as DJ Firstgrade, disc jockeyed at a party in Madison.

Now that Angelo’s Pizza is nothing but a memory to upperclassmen and a myth to most freshmen, Marquette’s nightlife has centered around the two bars left on campus: Murphy’s Irish Pub and Caffrey’s Pub. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Murphy’s and Caffrey’s are filled to the brim with Marquette students enjoying drinks, the company of friends and most of all, the music.

Much of the atmosphere in these bars is centered on the music, but who is in ontrol of it? A trio of disc jockeys – DJ Firstgrade, DJ Dactyl and DJ Sunshine – are the ones that keep the music and dancing going all the way until closing time.

Alex Curran, a former Marquette student, picked up disc jockeying two and a half years ago. He said he developed a liking for electronic music and it launched him into becoming a DJ. “I always had a deep love and understanding of music and it dawned on me that I could do something about it,” Curran said.

In addition to being the regular Friday night DJ at Murphy’s, he has played at many venues around campus and Milwaukee. He has spun the decks at Whiskey Bar and Mi-Key’s Bar downtown, as well as many house parties around campus and even in Madison. He has played at the Rave three times, opening for artists like Infected Mushroom and MSTRKRFT.

For Curran, DJing at Murphy’s and Caffrey’s has its ups and downs, as it allows him to gain valuable experience but it limits what he can play. “People need to realize that we are not just iPods that just change songs,” he said. “We have a method to what we are doing.”

He said Murphy’s is his favorite of the two bars because the crowd there allows him to play more electronic music, pushing up the tempo.

“When it boils down to it, your not DJing for yourself, your DJing for the people,” Curran said. What makes DJing worthwhile for Curran is the connection he feels with the crowd: “Knowing that you are leaving an impact on their night and introducing them to new music is what makes it worth it.”

The Saturday night DJ at Murphy’s is Ben Heupel, a current Marquette student whose alias is DJ Dactyl. Heupel and Curran are good friends, and they began DJing at the same time. “I download VirtualDJ to learn the basics, and then ended up dropping $600 for equipment,” Heupel said.

Along with DJing Saturday nights at Murphy’s, Heupel DJs house parties and block parties around campus and in Madison and even at Caffrey’s every now and then. Like Curran, Heupel likes the crowd in Murphy’s because he can play more upbeat electronic and house music. Heupel said: “For the most part, the crowd reaction is positive. When I play at Murphy’s, the crowd gets really into the music, dances, sings along and every now and then, stops by the DJ booth and give me knucks, high fives or even buys me a shot.”

Heupel also mentioned good and sometimes frustrating aspects of DJing the Marquette scene. “Life as a Marquette DJ, to be honest, is bittersweet,” he said. “It’s bitter in the sense that you get a lot of requests, but its great to be able to make people move… It’s nice because it allows me to work outside my comfort zone with different genres and really grow as a DJ.”

Marquette student Ryan Regan, also known as DJ Sunshine, DJed at Murphy's Irish Pub.

Marquette student Ryan Regan, also known as DJ Sunshine, disc jockeyed at Murphy's Irish Pub.

Another Marquette student, Ryan Regan, makes up the final piece of the musical trio. Regan, dubbed DJ Sunshine, is the Thursday night DJ at Murphy’s. Similar to the others, his passion for music is what pulled him in to DJing: “My love for house music made me want to pursue DJing. I love introducing people to new music and DJing lets me do that.”

Regan plays at block parties around campus and at shows back at home in Orange County, Calif. “Most of all I like making people dance,” Regan said. “I used to hate doing top forty, but as long as the crowd is having a good time, it’s all good.”

While Regan sees DJing as just a hobby, he said he has a lot of fun doing it and enjoys the connection with the crowd. Regan summed up his experience as a Marquette DJ: “It’s just fun being in charge of the party. The crowd trusts me, and they know it’s going be a good night.”

All three DJs share the same goal: to introduce house, electronic and dance music to Marquette. From this goal, Regan has developed the slogan, “Turning pubs into clubs.” So next time you are in Murphy’s or Caffrey’s, listen to the music. You might just find you new favorite song. Stop by the DJ booth and make an introduction. And above all else, dance.

by Matt Freter
[email protected]

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Florentine Opera Company celebrates National Opera Week in Milwaukee

Posted on 10 November 2010 by Melanie Pawlyszyn

Saturday, Oct. 30 started as a regular day for shoppers at the Milwaukee Public Market downtown on North Water Street. Milwaukee locals were shopping for their usual market goodies when faint orchestral music began playing in the background. As its volume amplified, the voices of people nearby – who looked like fellow shoppers – rang in a progressive, full opera chorus of “Nessun Dorma” throughout the market.

Led by chorus master Scott S. Stewart, over forty chorus members and studio artists from Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera Company brought audience members to tears with this flash opera as they kicked off the “Opera Week at the Market,” a series of performances in celebration of the second National Opera Week, Oct. 29 through Nov. 7.

The Florentine hopes to make the staged performance an annual event, according to Kathryn Reinardy, the company’s marketing and public relations manager.

“This was our first flash opera,” Reinardy wrote in an e-mail. “It was a lot of fun and the response was fantastic. Given the success, there may be more to come – who knows!”

(Check it out on YouTube: Flash Opera: Milwaukee Public Market: 10-30-2010)

In addition to the performance, the company began National Opera Week with a masterclass on Oct. 29, where 30 attendees got a glimpse of the opera technique singers must develop. Erie Mills, a nationally acclaimed performer and vocal coach, facilitated this free, public event.

Studio artists held three free lunchtime performances throughout the week at the Milwaukee Public Market. People attending cooking classes at the market also received special discounts on tickets to upcoming operas.

Throughout the same week, opera groups held over 100 events like this one nationwide in celebration of National Opera Week, sponsored by OPERA America, the national endowment of the arts.

Founded by John Anello and a group of community members in 1933, the Florentine Opera Company is one of Wisconsin’s oldest and most enduring professional performing arts organizations. It is in the midst of its 77th season and is the 6th oldest opera company in the United States, according to Reinardy.

Reinardy, who has worked at the Florentine since 2007, explained how many people it takes to keep the company running. Led by general director William Florescu, the administrative staff alone “includes finance, fund development, marketing, public relations, customer service and administrative professionals, who all play a key role in keeping the company running,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Grand opera is definitely no small undertaking!”

The Florentine employs “around 100 artists, artisans, craftspeople and administrative staff each season,” Reinardy wrote. “Our main stage artists are nationally auditioned and work professionally around the country. So, when they appear in a Florentine production, they move to Milwaukee and live here in the weeks that include the rehearsal process and the performances.”

She said the company also hires a professional chorus each season, made up of professional singers that live in Milwaukee and the Chicago area.

The Florentine presents its operas at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, located at 929 N. Water St. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra plays for all of its main stage productions, where vocal artistry meets “the visual excitement of elaborate, period authentic sets and costumes, high drama, light-hearted comedy and superb choreography,” the company’s website states.

The opera company contracts directors and principal performers from a pool of working professionals who work around the country. This season, all three of the stage directors are Milwaukee natives.

Directors this season include Paula Suozzi, who directed the world premiere of “Rio de Sangre” last month. William Theissen, who is the artistic director at the Skylight Opera, will direct “The Italian Girl in Algiers” on March 18, 19 and 20, and William Florescu will direct a double bill of two baroque operas: “Venus & Adonis” and “Dido & Aeneas” in May. All three directors have also directed operas around the country.

Some of the Florentine Opera Company’s upcoming events include: Bayshore Tree Lighting on Nov. 12, where studio artists will sing at Bayshore Town Center’s holiday tree lighting ceremony; The Golden Days concert at Vogel Hall in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 14; and the CMA Artist & Ensemble Recital at the Steinway Piano Gallery on West North Avenue on Nov. 21.

The Florentine offers students rush tickets for $15 that are available one hour before a performance with a valid ID. Students receive 15 percent off opera tickets at all times.

Besides opera performances, “community outreach and education are a key component of (the Florentine’s) mission,” Reinardy wrote. Last season, over 24,000 members of the Milwaukee community were served by its programming.

Reinardy said the company offers programs like Get Opera and High School Masterclass to a wide range of people, from kindergarteners to adults. Each winter, a Florentine touring opera visits 70 community venues and schools. The company presents a series of six free concerts with Alterra each summer and community performances throughout the year.

by Melanie Pawlyszyn
[email protected]

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This weekend, rock out at The Rave

Posted on 28 April 2010 by Amy Wilson

This past weekend was filled with some great music at The Rave near the far west side of campus. On Saturday, April 24, The Providence performed at the venue along with The Audition and Anarbor. On Sunday, April 25, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus headlined at the lower level stage and had five bands to open for them.

The Audition came out last month with a great CD entitled, “Great Danger.” This CD was completely done by the band. They had no producer and wrote all of their own songs except for one that was done with Adam. An industry-savvy friend told me that usually when bands produce a CD on their own, it can go one of two ways: they either fail miserably or they succeed beyond anyone’s expectations. Exceeding beyond all expectations was definitely the result for Great Danger, their latest CD, The Audition, proved themselves even more. There are not any bad songs to this CD. They even mixed up the sound and have a slower one entitled, “Run Away.” Everyone I have spoken to has said that they loved the CD. Since the CD was so great, it was disappointing that The Audition did not headline. However, they are definitely one band worth following.

Anarbor has also released a new album entitled, “The Words You Don’t Swallow.” This CD is really unique because in February they had been featured in Take Action, Volume 9. One of the songs on their current album is entitled “Mr. Big Shot” is reminiscent of the “Over the Rainbow” melody.

Despite music found with Anarbor and The Audition, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus was the band with the story for the weekend. The band was going to cancel their concert because their bus broke down about 100 miles away from The Rave a few hours before the concert. However with this, it meant that they had none of their instruments. Band members ended up having to use the instruments of the band before them. Interestingly, the band, Fit For Rivals were actually childhood friends of the lead vocalist in Red Jumpsuit. They ended up singing a debut that they wrote together when they were 19. Both bands were from Jacksonville, Florida.

The Red Jumpsuit concert was very low-key. It was not promoting a new album and also did not have a playlist. Instead, the bands asked for requests from the audience, which was a unique feature. They even put songs up for a vote. For example, they asked even if they did not have piano if we wanted to hear “Cat and Mouse” still. The band also asked how many people wanted to hear “Believe.” They did guide the requests slightly because there were three songs that they wanted to play towards the end of the night. They ended the night with the same song that they always end their shows with, which ironically, was the first song they ever wrote as a band.

by Amy Wilson
[email protected]

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Top Music for Valentine’s Day

Posted on 12 February 2009 by Nicole Schneider

“Angel Superior”
By Cadillac Blindside
Off of their 2002 final album “These Liquid Lungs,” this song is the perfect end to their CD and a great way to tell that special someone how you feel. Imagine a cloudy day with a storm coming. You are by a giant fountain all alone until your love meets you there. Suddenly, nothing matters but him or her. It is like heaven and endless.

“(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”
By Bryan Adams
A classic, I could not forget Bryan Adams. This song embodies true love with piano, guitar, vocals and beautiful lyrics. It is an epic love tale that will make anyone weak in the knees at the right moment.

“Ready and Waiting to Fall”
By Mae
This song puts words to all those feelings you find so difficult to describe when you fall for someone. Just imagine feeling so light, like you are floating and being serenaded by beautiful music and words.

“Knows My Name (Dado)”
By Days Away
Perhaps the most upbeat song ever written by Days Away, this song is just cute and fun. It is exactly like the happy and exciting feelings when you are with someone and the magic is just beginning.

“Ms. Vandersanden”
By Split Habit
This song was once dedicated to me at a show five years ago, but there is no bias because of that. It is an adorable little ditty to sing to your sweetheart or maybe just play for him or her. Its pop-punk sounds and catchy lyrics are sure to leave you smiling.

“Steal Me”
By Jupiter Sunrise
Imagine sitting around a campfire with extremely talented people playing the most beautiful melody and harmonizing their voices. Only it is not nighttime in the woods, you are actually in an enchanted wheat field on a perfect sunny day cuddling with your lover. That is the essence of this song.

“In Your Eyes”
By Peter Gabriel
Another classic love song, but not overdone in any way. I do not know how anyone could not fall madly in love with someone playing this song for him or her. After all, it worked for John Cusack, right?

“Glory of Love”
By New Found Glory (Originally Peter Cetera)
New Found Glory’s cover of this song is done quite tastefully. It added just the right amount of pop-punk rock riffs to the classic to make the song more magical. You will feel as if your Prince Charming is rescuing you from all of your problems or you are escaping to a secluded castle with your princess. There is a happy ending here.

“Honorable Mention”
By Fall Out Boy
This is an oldie but a goodie, at least as old as you can get with Fall Out Boy. While not the best song quality-wise, it makes up for it with catchiness, cleverness and just overall meaning. It is like a John Cusack movie, complete with a name drop. I sure am a sucker for John Cusack…

10. “Tongue Tied”
By October Fall
This slow song with a beautiful piano melody is accompanied by adorable lyrics that one would say to someone they deeply care for. This song is also spectacular because it encourages dancing, so if you play it for your special someone, hold them close and show off some of your skills.

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Best Albums of 2008

Posted on 29 January 2009 by Victoria Caswell

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have many favorite songs. Knowing this, you can see how it was nearly impossible for me to compile a list of the top albums released in 2008. However, I did my best to come up with a well-rounded list, and here it is for the public to know what I am listening to as I walk down Wisconsin Ave. on my way to class. I took some suggestions, but as I did not have time to sit down, listen to the whole album and then write my review, I decided just to have an honorable mention section at the end. Also, as always I’m open to suggestions, so contact [email protected]

Belle and Sebastian- The BBC Sessions, Matador Records
I’m going to be completely honest and say that I have always loved Belle and Sebastian. Even though I already have most of the songs that are on this compilation of (mostly) previously unreleased songs, the quality is slightly different, which makes it new and exciting. Although it is not too new, it is like meeting an old friend. Since the band has not put out an album since 2006’s The Life Pursuit, this was somewhat eagerly anticipated since it is unknown whether or not the band will put out another album. For my sake I hope they do.

Elvis Costello- Momofuku, UMG Recordings
Who doesn’t love Elvis Costello? I mean, honestly, what can’t that man do? Although he has apparently been threatening retirement for decades, thankfully, it has yet to happen. My personal favorite song is “No Hiding Place,” which features Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis on supporting vocals.

She and Him- Volume One, Merge Records
She and Him is a side project of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. Although the album mostly consists of covers, Deschanel’s beautiful voice and Ward’s unmistakable husky voice form a perfect duo.

Jenny Lewis- Acid Tongue, Warner Bros.
A follow up to 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat, Acid Tongue is definitely edgier than indie-country. Elvis Costello was featured as a back-up vocalist on “Carpetbaggers,” which is pretty cool, but my indisputable favorite song is “Black Sand.”

TV on the Radio- Dear Science, Touch and Go Records
This is just a great album, there is no getting around that. The songs are catchy without losing their former edge.

The Ting Tings- We Started Nothing, Sony BMG Music Entertainment
All I can say is “Shut Up and Let Me Go” is my ring tone. I’m not one to pass up a good electronic dance song. And “That’s Not My Name” is insane.

Beyonce- Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Since I don’t have the whole album, there isn’t much that can be said, but Beyonce’s vocals are amazing. I love this song, it is arguably one of the best.

Honorable Mentions: Taylor Swift, Fearless (Big Machine); Jason Mraz, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. (Atlantic);
As a side note: I think I need to add that in doing research for this article I looked up the Billboard charts for 2008 and was saddened when I found that the Twilight soundtrack was at the top of the charts.

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Marquette Symphonic Band Certainly Doesn’t Struggle Towards Triumph

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Thomas Klind

On Sunday, November 16, Dr. Erik Janners and the Marquette University Symphonic Band presented their second, and finest show of the semester. The concert, titled Struggle and Triumph, highlighted various pieces relating to the themes of successes and struggles. In perhaps the most well known piece of the concert, the band opened with the brass section standing on the floor of the Varsity Theater belting out a great rendition of Bugler’s Dream by the Frenchman Leo Arnaud (perhaps most well known as the Olympic Theme Song used during NBC broadcasts). The concert itself lasted just over an hour, which was a nice adjustment from the overly long 2 hours of the previous concert, which focused on marches.

Amanda Myer, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, and first year flautist in the MU Band, says that the band has practiced about 15 times since their last concert, for about two hours per rehearsal.

Their hard work and dedication to the pieces shined especially brightly in the band’s fourth piece, Paris Sketches by Martin Ellerby, a four-movement selection. The flute section was especially excellent.

However, perhaps the most mesmerizing and mystical moment was during Dance of the New World by Dana Wilson, where a myriad of Afro-Cuban inspired drums really stole the show. My only regret for the entire concert was that there was not an entire song devoted to the incredible sounds coming from the percussion section.

Unfortunately for the Marquette Symphonic Band (but perhaps more so for the Marquette Community) attendance was sparse.

According to Peter J. Merkel, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, and second year bass clarinet and baritone saxophone player, “As per usual, the turnout seemed to be mostly parents and other family of the band members, but I was glad to see at least a few students in attendance.  It is disappointing that we perform at our best for a few hundred at our concerts.  The thousands of people at basketball games hear very little of our repertoire and skill.”

Merkel also remarks that, over the past couple of weeks, the band has been balancing both their symphonic and pep band rehearsals during their allotted two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the Varsity Theater.

Look for the Pep band at all home Men’s and Women’s Basketball games, and know that their repertoire is not simply limited to a rousing rendition of Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4.
The next concert is the Marquette Music Area Holiday Concert on Sunday, December 7 at 2 p.m. in the Varsity Theater.

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Conor Oberst or Bright Eyes? Singer goes “solo” and develops a more folksy sound

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Victoria Caswell

I’ve always liked Bright Eyes, so naturally when I heard that Conor Oberst was coming to the Turner Hall Ballroom, I was excited. I saw Bright Eyes, his “band” at the Pabst Theater in Spring 2007 and the show was sold out—my friend and I even got there early so we could stand in the front by the stage. We were an hour or two early and still had to stand in a long line that wound around the building.

This time, I just assumed it would be the same way, so we got there an hour early so we could again wait in either a line or at least be closer to the stage. However, the show was nowhere near sold out.

My reasoning for his drop in ticket sales is that people are unaware that Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes are the same thing. Yes, the same thing. Not that Bright Eyes was entirely a solo act, but still it was about as close as it could get. After all, it wasn’t like he had a consistent band that was always touring with him.

Apparently Oberst’s new thing is “just hanging out with his friends.” (Maybe it’s not a new thing, but I read that on his new website, www.conoroberst.com.) The new band is officially titled Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and it features five other musicians, most notably (to me) is Jason Boesel of Rilo Kiley (I saw Rilo Kiley over the summer and they did not disappoint me at all). However, I heard rumors that M. Ward was also supposed to be a member and I’m very disappointed that he did not want to join Oberst and his group of friends on tour.

I’m being completely honest when I say I really like Conor Oberst’s new self-titled album. I’m generally not the kind of music connoisseur that writes something off because it is new and different (like most Rilo Kiley fans did when the band came out with their latest album “Under the Blacklight.” Yes, I actually loved it even though I am a fan of the older stuff too), although I was surprised that he chose to use his real name.

The album itself was recorded in Tepoztlán, Morales, Mexico over a one month period. According to the website, they “crafted a lush and beautiful record that evokes the deep sense of harmony in which they lived and worked during that month.” I believe it. Some of the lyrics remind me of scenes in The Doors when Jim Morrison is wandering through the desert.

The next statement is not in anyway saying that I did not enjoy Conor Oberst masquerading as… himself, but I think I had a lot more fun when he was still Bright Eyes. The difference: back in 2007, I don’t know what was going on with him (whether it be drug or alcohol related), but he wore an all white suit, had the stage decorated in brightly colored daisies and then he proceeded to ramble incoherently about the opening band, Oakley Hall between every song. The show went on to end with him being carried off stage because he was so out of control. At one point, he jumped into the audience (to the dismay of the backstage crew) and I actually touched him (not in a creepy way). He tried to give away his guitar several times, which he claimed at the beginning was lent to him by a friend. I’m not saying his apparent drug use was a good thing, but I had the time of my life.

On Thursday I was glad to see that he’s cleaned up his act, but he barely talked in between songs and he seemed to have lost some of his spunk (which I hope wasn’t just drug induced ramblings). They also played a lot of songs that have never been heard and he lost the suit and wore jeans. I would have liked to know some of the songs before hand, but it was still enjoyable.

A good friend of mine believes this is because he’s “just having fun with his friends” and “is trying to be casual.”

Going into it, I thought he would play at least one Bright Eyes song, but he didn’t play any. Is he trying to shed his former image? Also, his voice is a bit different. My question: is he happier being himself than he was a Bright Eyes? He’s definitely folksier than ever, but I’m not complaining about that.

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“It’s True Love”: Razia’s Shadow

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Nicole Schneider

Since their debut full length CD “Wonderland” in May 2006, Forgive Durden has toured, taken a break, and lost all but one member. Finally, they have released a new album and are on tour now (with a slightly different lineup).

The new album, “Razia’s Shadow: A Musical,” is not like the music made by most indie rock bands these days. The album is in the form of a musical: telling a story, complete with narratives. It took Forgive Durden front man Thomas Dutton a year to write and record “Razia’s Shadow,” and after listening to it, you can see why. Along with the elaborate storyline, the tracks are accompanied by a nearly 30-piece orchestra and countless guest appearances. Among these guest singers are Max Bemis (Say Anything), Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Danny Stevens (The Audition), Dan Young (This Providence), Brendon Urie (Panic at the Disco), Greta Salpeter (The Hush Sound), Nic Newsham (Gatsbys American Dream) and Shawn Harris (The Matches).

“Razia’s Shadow” tells the story of a gifted man that believes he can change the world but feels that his talents are not being recognized by anyone but the woman he loves. In his frustration, he makes a rash decision that tears the world into a division of darkness and light. For a century the world remains divided. Among those living in darkness were brothers Pallis and Adakias. Pallis was heir to the throne and Adakias was a romantic dreamer. He believed he was the one that was meant to fulfill the prophecy to reunite the world. Against his brother’s wishes, Adakias goes into the light and finds true love. But nothing is ever that easy; his love was a princess and of course the king would not approve. From there, things rollercoaster up and down, but are still accompanied by beautiful melodies.

It ends with a wonderful parting message: “Live for your love everyday.” And don’t forget, this entire story is set to music that matches the tone of the tales as they enfold.

For a loose comparison, think back to the days of rock operas. Think The Who’s “Quadrophenia.” But as so eloquently stated, “Razia’s Shadow” is a musical, so think “Quadrophenia” mixed with “Man of La Mancha.” There is just something about epic sagas put to music that you could picture played out on a stage or a movie screen that makes it catchier than an annoying pop song. Filled with metaphors, deep meaning, love, regret, destiny, death and ridiculously amazing music, “Razia’s Shadow” seems to be the whole package. It also has a clever storyline that pulls you in with characters you can relate to and even dream along with. After all, “Don’t you ever feel that you’ve been destined for something bigger than your skin?”
If I am giving it a rating, it is somewhere around ten stars. Four thumbs up. This album has blown my mind, and I do not mind.

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