Archive for February, 2010

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

2010 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

Contributing Writer : Garret K. Woodward

Contributing Photographer : Andrew Wyatt

In its 113th year of existence, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival has risen far and wide, known to many across the world, as one of the wildest, must see events the country has to offer during the winter months. Hailed as the “Mardi Gras” of the north, the festivities are quite possibly the closest thing one has to Bourbon Street above the Mason-Dixon Line.

And with “Adirondack Cowboy” as the theme, another year of blurred insanity reared its chaotically beautiful head in the heart of New York.

[Article Continues After The Photos]

Friday – Feb. 12

Yanked and harassed to get out of bed around 9 a.m., I awoke hungover from the previous nights endeavors in nearby Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. The sun shining, a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon within my fingertips. The local posse made its way to the Belvedere Restaurant. A legendary Italian establishment, the “Bel” year after year is home to first drinks of the day during carnival (they open somewhere around 8 a.m. or whenever you decide to pound on the door to open up).

Soon, numerous Bloody Mary’s were strewn about the counter, happily consumed amid a joyous and raucous ambiance. Filled with cowboy hats, bandanas, shiny boots and belt buckles larger than a dinner plate, “Whiskey River” echoed from the jukebox. Shots of rum and tequila rained supreme. Cheers and salutes were made to the dozen or so talented locals currently competing in Vancouver. Hordes eventually wandered out into the cold late morning.

It was time for the inner tube races!

With liquor concealed under cozy coats and sunglasses covering weary eyes, hundreds entered the annual mayhem of humanity rocketing down the petite Mt. Pisgah. Few won ribbons, yet all walked away champions in their own right (just for even getting up before noon at least).

The subsequent afternoon became a haze of people, places, and intoxicating things. Before you knew it, the sun faded behind the mystical Adirondack Mountains surrounding the jovial community.

After maneuvering a sardine can of people and countless beverages at Captain Cook’s, I zigzagged my way to the Waterhole. A renowned music venue tucked in the midst of downtown, Hot Day at the Zoo was ready to set sail for the evening.

The well-known bar has come to be known as the headquarters of the gonzo bluegrass quartet. Packed with rowdy, foot stomping locals, and tourists alike, the ambiance aligned perfectly with the overzealous approach of the Massachusetts group.

Charging up the hillside with “One Day Soon” and “Mercy of the Sea”, the rebel yells and string bombardment filled the ear with a cacophony of traditional numbers amid a plethora of original material destined to become the former.

As if caught in a time warp, the clock stated 3:57 a.m. while the group was just ending their encore. Filing out into the crisp early morning, the crowd stumbled towards their humble abodes and into bed, “For tomorrow we do it all over again!”

Saturday – Feb. 13

The next morning proved an arduous task as lifeless bodies rolled out of warm sheets. It was the final showdown of this 10-day test of courage, dehydration, alcohol tolerance, and town pride.

Coffee? Nope. Orange Juice? Only if it involves vodka. Bloody Mary’s? Well, why didn’t you say that earlier?

Leaving the “Bel” around 12:30 p.m., throngs sauntered downtown for the parade. Culminating the entire experience, thousands lined the street, hung from balconies or watched from the confines of warm buildings. Numerous tractor-trailer floats, choreographed dance routines by the Lawn Chair Ladies (local women who gyrate with a piece of summer furniture), dozens of colorful costumes handing out beads and candy.

Drinks were held high and spirits soared even higher.

As soon as the streets cleared, it was a quick jaunt to the post-parade house party with regional sensation Lucid.

The hardest working band in the North Country (Upstate NY and VT), the sextet careens across the gamut of genres with a unique mixture of jazz, rock, honky-tonk blues, and reggae. The melodies entice arms to flail and legs to shake with a reckless abandon. The floorboards seemed to shuffle beneath anxious feet of those lost in moment during “Backwoods” or merely trying to track down the infamous keg downstairs.

It was a forgotten trek back downtown, but eventually a beacon of light, the Waterhole, soon guided us in the right direction for another dose of Lucid at 10 p.m., only to be followed by jam gurus Raisinhead.

That was all I literally remembered, the names of who was playing that night.

I know I had a smile on my face. I know I was among friends and family. I know I had a drink in my hand. I know I had another great year being embraced by the loving arms of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.

And after all, isn’t that was matters most?

RCRD LBL MP3 of the Day

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Courtesy of RCRDLBL.com

Download  today's featured track!

Wu-Tang Clan
Early Grave (feat. ODB & Bad Luck)

An album of rare and spruced up Wu-Tang material produced and arranged entirely by Mathematics and featuring vocals from all thirteen members is kind of like a big deal. Because really, songs like “Early Grave”, with an excavated verse from the late, great, totally inimitable O.D.B., don’t come around, well, ever.

Wu-Tang Clan – Early Grave (feat. ODB & Bad Luck)

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
I Learned The Hard Way

Why you would try to play Sharon Jones is beyond us. Like, have you never heard this woman sing? Do you not know that she rolls with the Dap Kings? Did you think you would not wind up the subject of a scornful—if totally “I’m over you and better for it”—song of hers? We’re both baffled at your stupidity and relishing the fruit it’s born. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way

Miike Snow
Billie Holiday

Once more, the Swedish/American combo impossibly straddle the line between reflective and epic, massaging vocals with deep echo and sweeping in strings and synths to brush out the melancholy even further. It’s songs like these that render sub-genres meaningless.

Miike Snow – Billie Holiday

Giant Panda LIVE UP Review

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad LIVE UP!

Album Review

Contributing Writer : Rashon A. Massey

LIVE UP! is the latest effort from a band that has become dear to my heart.  Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) first entered my playlist back at Wakarusa 2008 in Lawrence, KS.

Cleverly titled, LIVE UP! is the sophomore release following Slow Down.  With the first record being released years ago, it was due time for the band to produce a recording stating exactly where they stood to date; henceforth, the idea to not necessarily jump into a studio but share their songs as they are best heard – in a live setting.GiantPandaGDS_10-23-09_MBal

As soon as the audibly clear tones of this album begin, a slight pang in my heart rings.  With the departure of bandmates Matt and Rachel back in November of 2009, hearing Matt, the lead vocalist I’ve come to appreciate, saddens me; moreover, reassures me that this album is so special simply because it would capture them just as I’ve remembered.  Bands will grow and evolve and in my case, seeing a band more then five times in a year, you begin to admire the growth of their musicianship taking place right before your eyes.  Even still, this album is a poster of what I remember the sound to be as recent as October 2009 when I saw them last.

“Blacktoke” shoots out the canon of LIVE UP! with total control and passion you can expect from the members of GPGDS.  With this being a live recording, you get to hear all the soul-scratching of the high notes that lead vocalist Matt has placed his stamp upon.  Just getting right after the beat in his signature flow of lyrics, Matt unleashes the pure guerilla-style verbal slick at 3:35, and you’re surely bouncing exactly the way this track intends for you to move.

“International Mother,” the sweet slow burning joint of the show is one where you truly appreciate the talent of Rachel.  Her melodica guides you on a classic dub infused journey that rides on waves of bass rolling from James Searl.  Chris O’Brian, Matt’s brother who holds down the drums perfectly with every song, keeps that steady groove intellectual while you spark up thoughts with your eyes closed, swaying in the venue.

On that note, something I really dig comes from the wonderfully leveled background noise of the audience on this album.  Right towards the end of “International Mother,” you begin hearing the chatter of the crowd which is something you don’t always get with live albums.  Most times in post-production, they only keep the applause on tracks and occasional, “Oh’s,” audible; however, with LIVE UP! you are transported to a special reserved seat placed on the GPGDS stage, giving you the sound perspective of sitting amidst the six piece band while staring into the crowd.

With the start of “Seasons Change,” I’m reminded of the growth GPGDS has undergone over the years.  Allowing a true jam to flourish from a standard reggae progression, becoming slightly transient and fluid with drum and bass laden kick, by the time the 7:30 mark of the song hits, you realize this is some modern day dub taking place right in your ears, effortlessly transitioning back to the home progression to close the song.

By the time you get to guitarist Dylan Savage’s vocals on “Pockets,” you need the chill break to sway your hips and hear some brass horn action, but don’t get too comfortable because with the smartly placed “In These Times,” the track following in the set, you gotta slowly build your dancing shoes for the remix “Times Reprise.”

The best part of this album truly unfolds in the way each band member LISTENS!  They are communicating effectively on stage, each paying close attention to the breath, beat and tone color of each members notes.

Right about here in the album, you feel like you’ve been taken to a Marvin Gaye like atmosphere.  If you’ve ever listened to Gaye’s “What’s Going On” or “Got to Give It Up,” then you know what I mean about him layering the conversations, words and non-typical outside sounds to paint an environment of a backyard barbecue or basement hangout.  Again, this is where the live album excels in not just updating you to where the band currently reaches with their grasp, but in creating a room in which you’ve been personally invited to listen to the music.  You can visualize the ladies at the front of the stage shaking their ass and setting the tone for the dance floor.GiantPandaGDS-Press-2009_16

Although GPGDS is no longer the sextet I have come to know them for, I am deeply appreciative to own a copy of a recording that I will forever remember them as.  Below, check out a quick concert review of the new four piece at a recent show opener in Boston, MA by RFW Contributing Writer Jason Turgeon.

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad | Boston, MA 02/05/10

Contributing Writer : Jason Turgeon

Playing a venue like the House of Blues in Boston is a pretty big deal for a young act like Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. In fact, it’s a pretty big deal for John Brown’s Body, the Boston-area stalwarts of the modern reggae scene that GPGDS was here opening up for. In part, it’s a big deal because the venue itself is so damn big. The new HoB, just days shy of its one-year birthday, is best described as cavernous, a massive joint that holds a couple of thousand people before it even starts to feel full, with soaring ceilings and multiple levels of balconies for the VIP-types to hang out on. For those fans and acts who like their music hot, sweaty, and intimate, the House of Blues is a challenge–the sheer volume of the place and the club’s over-sized ventilation system can keep things downright chilly.

So the crew from Giant Panda had their work cut out for them last night in their hour-long set, quite literally trying to warm up a venue that couldn’t have been more than 60 degrees at the beginning of their set. It didn’t help that all the doors were wide open to the February chill as people streamed in from the outside for the entire time they were on stage. But they handled it with aplomb, cruising through a selection of their standards including “Seasons Change” and “Pockets.”

The set started off mellow, sounding more like background music for a really good party than an attention-grabbing live act. The small circle of head-bobbing, foot-tapping, dreadlock-waving fans in the front gradually rippled out through the growing crowd until by the end of the set everyone in the joint was giving the band at least partial attention as they worked to ensure the optimal viewing point for the main act. They gradually turned up the heat, and things really got cooking when they cranked up the intensity about three quarters of the way through during a positively blazing version of “In These Times” when guitarist Dylan Savage unleashed his inner Carlos Santana on the now-packed room. By this point, CDs were moving briskly off the merch table and the lines at the bar were non-existent as the whole place turned towards the stage to make sure they didn’t end up missing something.

By this point the room was finally warm enough to shed winter jackets and the crowd was ready for more. Unfortunately, the whole point of being a warm-up act is to get the crowd to this level and then leave, and after just one more song the band had to make way for the headliners. But rest assured, Boston now knows Giant Panda and they’ll be welcomed back here for a full length set next time they are in town.

Essence Music Festival

Friday, February 12th, 2010

ESSENCE

AND

EARTH, WIND & FIRE

CELEBRATE 40 YEARS OF MUSIC

THIS JULY 4TH WEEKEND

AS THE ROCK AND ROLL AND ROLL HALL OF FAMERS

JOIN THIS YEAR’S

ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL

PRELIMINARY LINE-UP INCLUDES GLADYS KNIGHT, KERI HILSON, JILL SCOTT, RAPHAEL SAADIQ, CHARLIE WILSON AND OTHERS

The line-up for the 2010 ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL–the annual weekend-long celebration of music, culture and community–will not only celebrate the 40th anniversary of ESSENCE, but will also salute the 40-year career of the legendary EARTH WIND & FIRE. The multi-platinum award-winning superstars join previously announced ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL headliner and official spokesperson Mary J. Blige this July 4th weekend in New Orleans.

“We’re honored that Essence and Earth, Wind & Fire share the same anniversary,” said Philip Bailey, leader and co-founder of Earth, Wind & Fire. “Together, we have both been jammin’ for over 40 years! Get ready, ’cause we are going to celebrate this summer at the Essence Music Festival.”

The preliminary line-up for the nation’s largest annual gathering of African-American music and culture also includes Gladys Knight, Keri Hilson, Jill Scott, Raphael Saadiq, Charlie Wilson, De La Soul, Chrisette Michele, Joe, Laura Izibor and Melanie Fiona. The multi-generational line-up reinforces ESSENCE’s 40-year commitment to music. Additional details and the full line-up for the 2010 ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL will be revealed in the coming weeks.

For additional information about ticket sales, accommodations and the latest news about the ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL, visit www.essence.com/festival.

Last year, the ultimate destination for entertainment, empowerment, culture and community celebrated its 15th anniversary with a record-breaking 428,000 attendees. What began in 1995 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ESSENCE magazine has now grown into one of the country’s “Top 10 Leading Brand Events” by Advertising Age.

The ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL is the nation’s largest annual gathering of African-American music and culture; in its 16-year history, it has featured an array of performers including Alicia Keys, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Chaka Khan, Destiny’s Child, Earth, Wind & Fire, Gladys Knight, LL Cool J, Jamie Foxx, John Legend, Kanye West, The Isley Brothers, Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, Maxwell, The O’Jays, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Toni Braxton, Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams.

The presenting sponsor for the 2010 Essence Music Festival is Coca-Cola. Other 2010 sponsors include Coors, CoverGirl Queen, Ford, McDonald’s, Olay, Pantene, U.S. Army and My Black is Beautiful.

The 2010 ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL is executive produced by Essence Festivals LLC and produced by Rehage Entertainment. Essence Festivals LLC is a division of Essence Communications Inc. (ECI).

ABOUT ESSENCE COMMUNICATIONS INC.:

Essence Communications Inc. (ECI) is the number one media and communications company dedicated to African-American women. With a multi-platform presence in publishing, live events, and online, the Essence brand is “Where Black Women Come First”. The company’s flagship publication, ESSENCE magazine, is the preeminent lifestyle magazine for African-American women; generating brand extensions such as the Essence Music Festival, ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood, Window on Our Women (WOW I & II) and Smart Beauty I, II & III consumer insights, the Essence Book Club, Essence.com, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD). For 40 years, ESSENCE magazine, which has a brand reach of over 8 million, has been the leading source of cutting-edge information relating to every area of African-American women’s lives. Additional information about ECI and ESSENCE is available at www.essence.com.

RJD2 Nails Colossus Proportions

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

RJD2 Nails Colossus Proportions

The COLOSSUS album review

Contributing Writer : Rashon A. Massey, “15sec FAME” blog

From what I gathered in research, many critics gave RJD2 a lot of crap over The Third Hand, the last studio release dropped back in 07.  Now instead of comparing the last album to the latest RJD2 release, The Colossus, and highlight how the sound has improved or gone further down the ‘critic’ rabbit-hole, I am going to give you my honest opinion of this recording as it stands.

And isn’t that what album reviews should be about anyway?

Imagine if I were to compare the person you were three years ago to the person you are today, publicly assaulting you on whether you have made the kind of progress I would like to witness.  Is that fair?  Then why should we accept that from music critics?  I believe the process in creating recordings is something uniquely special; moreover, sharing those emotions and feelings with a mass audience is really an open conversation- a direct dialogue from artist to you.  Now to trash a new album simply because it is not what I liked to hear from an artist years prior would say more about me (as a reviewer/critic) than the artist themselves, in my opinion.  Think about it.  That person is attempting to draw negative attention towards a musician where the truth lays within the speaker.  Isn’t it them [critic] who has not grown, accepted change or advanced in their sound?  If they had, then they must accept music evolves too, understanding we must critique in the moment and not live in the past.

That brings my commentary and album review back to The Colossus proportion.

What RJD2 has done with this recording is the same thing Beck repeats time and time again through reinventing his signature style.  The best features of a phenomenal talent re-imagining a world in which they created and brought to you rises from an experience totally new and aesthetically pleasing, unveiling an exciting realm of familiar possibilities and brand new colors.

With a florescent splash of pink, orange and brass tinted gold, RJD2 begins The Colossus with “Let There Be Horns,” a hip-rockin, head nodding dance track that fits comfortably in your earbuds extending from a pocketed iPod in your pants.  It is a solid track that can provide both the background noise accompanying your mindless internet searching to an advance state of theory, even pleasing the parents who still wonder what happened to real music.  This opener has gnarly-thrashing guitar riffs lighting steps towards horn touting climaxes repeatedly.  A drum rhythm that grabs you by the toes and makes you smile immediately when you hear the consciously placed applauses added at the end of the track.  Indeed, a job well done.

Inviting GRAMMY nominated artist Kenna to the party, RJD2 takes us to “Games You Can Win,” a R&B groove that rises like easy cigarette smoke from track 2 off the album.  Kenna smoothly melts your anxiety of the day with Ray Charles, simple harmonies laid upon one another.  Kenna has the old school voice we’ve come to adore from master producer and artist Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. and The Neptunes.  RJD2 takes us to the after hours, dark backroom of the club with this track, creating the VIP room that still makes cocktails past the legal hours of selling liquor in your state.  Fading to oblivion just as cool as it began, RJD2 lets you know this album is going to be a ride through variant styles that Ramble John knows best.

The “Giant Squid” which is track 3 lands somewhere between track 1 and 2 in terms of style, production and sound, and around 50 seconds in, you get a true sense and realize what the rest of the album will hold- A musical journey through someone who clearly appreciates jazz and moments probably not too tense during these times in life.  You hear an artist inviting you to explore and reevaluate your own taste buds of the musical palette you’ve come to accept, almost challenging the last album naysayers with forward concepts and progressions of tomorrows hit anthems.

If you’re feeling right about there after track 3, then John Krohn wants to reaffirm you are getting the point of The Colossus message at hand, doing a vocal feat becoming popular in the spin community – talking directly to you.  We hear it in Deadmau5 all the time, and with track 4′s “Salud 2,” the album blends samples from every track of The Colossus, bringing the beginning journey into full accord while transitioning to the heart of the album in one seamless effect.

Not to blow the rest of the album in too many details, I will say stream it and experience The Colossus effect all on your own.  On the right panel of TheRFW.com, a free download of “Games You Can Win” is available; moreover, the full album can be streamed for your enjoyment.  I know you don’t want to spend all your precious time listening to the music here, so I encourage you to pop-out the player and experience the music as you surf the web…and keep it on the low end of the volume register.  Let it just coast out the speakers.

You might agree this album flows just like track 5 toots in the title.  The Colossus is “The Glow” that resonates as an easy-listening, thoughtfully produced recording which can be blasted to feel the drum heavy tracks laden with sonically solid, speaker popping techniques of today’s modern, forward-thinking music.  I give this album my full recommendation.  I get exactly where RJD2 is right now with The Colossus state of mind; moreover, this album puts you right there with Ramblin John Krohn, and to feel a warm, colossus glow inside just might be what you need this winter season.