By: Derek Jung
When you enter as many contests and giveaways as I do, the law of averages eventually catches up with you and you win something. That happened yesterday when I won a ticket for an in studio performance of Fitz & the Tantrums from the local alternative radio station The Project 100.7/106.3. I haven't been particularly hot on the group in the past few months, their latest self-titled release was pretty mediocre and their performance at Madison Theater last year was lifeless. That being said, I was excited to see them in such an intimate space and hear what they sound like stripped down without the pop showiness.
About twenty of us were ushered into the seated performance space, a rather bland space compared to Studio 89 at WNKU, but still nice and cozy. Besides Michael and Noelle, only Joseph the bassist (playing guitar) and Jeremy the keyboardist were present for the showcase. After a brief introduction from KISS 107.1 FM DJ Kristie, who was either visibly nervous or strung out on way too much caffeine, the band played a selection of singles from their self-titled album and More Than Just A Dream. Without all of the production additions that turned me off of the newer singles, there are some really catchy hooks underneath. "Rollup", my favorite off the new album, was great stripped down and even "Handclap" was tolerable.
The problem with being in such an intimate environment is that it can be awkward for both the band and the audience. Most in attendance aren't used to being right in front of their musical idols and it's especially evident for those who like to blend in with the crowd and just stand there. Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle are very high energy performers, and dancing and choreography are big parts of their on stage personas. There is a certain expectation that people groove and dance to their music. There wasn't a whole lot of that because we were all seated, so the energy levels were off. This isn't the fault of the band or those in attendance. I'd argue it was mostly the environment.
After a few short Q&A sessions we all got the chance to have our pictures taken with the band. Nothing really revolutionary came from the questions. Noelle is a foodie (although she doesn't like that term). Michael Fitzpatrick loves artisanal coffee and his favorite album is Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. He's also expecting his wife to go into labor any day now. Jeremy likes Star Wars and can do a pretty decent Wookiee noise.
Check out a slideshow photo album of the show by clicking here.
By: Derek Jung
It's a rare occasion when Joseph and I get to see the same band within such a short span of time. He was able to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the legendary Ryman Auditorium last month. On Friday, I had the pleasure of seeing them at Madison Theater, their first show in Cincinnati since their capacity crowd show at the Taft Theater Ballroom during Midpoint Music Festival in 2014. Similarly to that show, Friday's show was sold out. The band is touring off their great new album, Sea of Noise, and I was eagerly anticipating hearing the new material live.
One thing I knew to expect was the antics of lead singer Paul Janeway, easily the heart and soul of the band with some of the best pipes that I've heard in a live setting ever. The dude can flat out belt it, and he knows it to. Therein lies the problem. A lot of his stage performance consists of him responding to the cheering of the crowd, and he makes sure to take out his earpiece after most songs to bask in that glorious, glorious applause. Nothing wrong with feeding off the energy of the crowd, but I couldn't help but get the feeling that it was a constant ego trip for Janeway, but I could be wrong. He was, of course, brilliant, and the new material sounded absolutely fantastic. My favorite song on the album, "All I Ever Wonder" popped on stage. Many songs sounded like church, a bonafide spiritual experience (see: "Sanctify" and set closer "Burning Rome").
I still think some of their ballads, especially from their debut album, can drag after a while, but that is a rather nitpicky criticism from what was a solid performance from the band.
Check out their performance of "All I Ever Wonder" from Later... with Jools Holland below.
By: Derek Jung
Nearly a year after they last played Madison Theater, Shovels & Rope made their return to my beloved Covington, Kentucky music venue for another go around. As I mentioned in that review, Shovels & Rope and I go back before their first album was released, and the band has always had a soft spot in my heart. This show, however, was anything but a triumphant return for the band, and it was a rare weak moment in the five times that I've seen them perform.
When we entered the theater, it became immediately apparent that the heat was entirely too high, and the near capacity crowd did not help matters whatsoever. We found our spot in the crowd and listened to opener John Moreland's set, which was absolutely fantastic. His gritty voice and melancholy lyrics blended perfectly. By the end of his set, he left the stage to rousing applause, and I'm certain that the crowd wouldn't have complained if he'd played longer. I will definitely be checking out his set at Forecastle this summer.
Shovels & Rope took the stage a bit later and charged through songs from their last two albums Little Seeds and Swimmin' Time. From the first note it was obvious that the mix was terrible. The bass drum was so overpowered that it hurt my ears through my musician grade earplugs. Michael Trent's electric guitar was also too loud in the mix, and the combination of the two ruined the new, more rock driven songs. When they finally played something from their debut full length, O' Be Joyful, it was almost too late to save the set for us.
I know Shovels & Rope. I know what they normally sound like. So I'm mostly willing to write this night off as a bad stop on the tour, but I will say that I was not a big fan of the band's most recent release, Little Seeds. I wish they would return to the folk americana sounds of O' Be Joyful, but I also understand that the band's growing success has happened with the newer sound. So, until next time, my friends.
Check out a video of them playing "I Know" on Conan below.
By: Joseph Kathmann
If there's one band who knows how to put on a good show, it's Twenty One Pilots. Seeing one of the biggest bands on the planet in the height of their prime is a hard thing to do, but that's exactly what I managed to do this past Saturday in Memphis. The crowd knew every word of every song, and the atmosphere was intense as almost the entire arena got a 2 hour glimpse of what certainly became their favorite band by the end of the night. While I'm constantly bothered by the fact that there's only two people on stage despite the numerous layers in their music, it's hard to care about that after they've torn through their 20+ song set without so much as a breather.
That said, getting to Twenty One Pilots was something of a chore. The opener, Jon Bellion, was pretty lackluster and just had a 20 minute set, and the initial opener, Judah and the Lion, went on right at doors so we didn't even get a chance to see them. Bellion was pretty lackluster, and after his quick set there was almost an hour's worth of a wait to get to Twenty One Pilots. The crowd was clearly getting antsy by the long wait, but boy where they in for a treat.
You know, I've really been lucky so far this year with my live shows, as both were two of the best shows I've seen for different reasons. St. Paul and the Broken Bones was great because there were a lot of casual fans at that show that were converted to the magic of the band, but Twenty One Pilots don't have many casual fans. Everyone knew every word of every song, and the girls were screaming at the top of their lungs throughout the energy-packed set. Tyler Joseph jumped around all corners of the stage during every song, and Josh Dun plays drums with as much energy as anyone I've ever seen. It's hard not to think of him as one of the best drummers in the music industry today. The band made use of every inch of their stage, filling it with lights, cannons, and video boards. At one point the duo played a few songs from an auxiliary stage at the back of a pit, and the floor light up on this stage. Because of course it did.
Other antics from the band included Josh Dun crowd surfing (a bit, at least) in the pit with his drum set, and the duo closed with "Trees," in the pit. Overall, I think what I found most impressive about the duo was their civility. There's no doubt they are one of the hottest bands on the planet right now, dropping the youngest generation's equivalent an album like The Black Parade in 2015 with Blurryface, but they still came across as authentic, down-to-earth guys. They took plenty of opportunities to thank the opening bands, (despite their short sets) and even let Judah and the Lion frontman Judah Akers a chance to stage dive in one of those giant inflatable bubbles during "Stressed Out." Ultimately, while I went in skeptical of the band's live show because....c'mon. Why are there only two guys on stage? I came out of that show with my questions answered and my skepticism all but gone. Twenty One Pilots are on top of the musical world right now, and their live show is a big reason for that.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: