Category Archives: Fans

Evolution of a Song – “Rejects in the Attic” – Part 1

It has been almost four years since Seth and Scott Avett debuted Rejects in the Attic at an intimate Merlefest songwriter’s workshop.  That morning, fans nestled into the 200-seat auditorium with grand hopes that they would witness something truly special.  I doubt that any of us were prepared for this song and the palpable heartache that echoed through Seth’s microphone.   Once an orphaned sheet of scribbled lyrics buried in a disheveled pile, Seth dusted off Rejects, dismantled it and pieced it back together, replacing Scott’s pain and vulnerability with his own.

As fans, we speculate on what may drive the emotion behind such a heavy song–despair, regret, shame, hopelessness.  Though we will never fully understand the twisted path a song takes from start to finish–even when written by two brothers, years apart–it was clear that on that day, as Seth sat with his journal and heart left open for the world to see, the pain behind those lyrics being uttered in public for the first time was fresh and present and very personal.

Seth’s face told a story of sleepless nights and mental anguish. With eyes shut, the weighty lyrics left his lips to find sympathetic ears and sturdy shoulders.  Suddenly, we realized that we were there to share the burden.  We held our breath and took it in, collectively acknowledging the therapeutic exchange that was unfolding before us.  We were not just a passive sounding board that day, but rather a living, breathing levee taking on a flood of emotion.  And just when we thought the chairs may buckle beneath us, Seth opened his eyes, looked to the sky and asked us for more.   We obliged, hopeful that whatever role we played that day for him allowed those holes of pain to be filled in with new found joy.

As Seth closed the song, an almost embarrassed smile spread across his face like that of a grade school kid who just finished reading aloud his first poem in English class.  That bashful authenticity reminded us all that even though we often find ourselves separated from them by a steel barrier or tour bus window, we are all just a bunch of rejects riding through this crazy, beautiful, painful experience together.

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Album Review – Mipso’s “Old Time Reverie”

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“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller was a man of the people–an 80’s pop culture icon created in the era of John Hughes’ brilliance.  Ferris’ words continue to find footing thirty years after audiences caught their first glimpse of the vested hero on the big screen.  He was right–life does move pretty fast.  In our current culture of instagramification it can require some serious effort to slow down, stop multitasking and take a break from all of the Facebook updates and Tweets.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution that often yields positive results–music.  Music is that powerful catalyst that forces you to look up from the glow of your iPhone.  When the sound of joyful voices melting together into a rich harmony hits your eardrum, you can no  longer ignore the goosebumps on the back of your arms and the calming breath in your chest.  Music pulls you away from all of the noise.  It frees you.

On their third studio album, Old Time Reverie, Mipso serves up just that–freedom.  Sitting down with this album transports the listener back to a simpler time, though not one without its own set of obstacles, as evidenced by the album opener “Marianne.”  With a happy fiddle playing peek-a-boo throughout the song, one may mistaken “Marianne” for a jovial tune.  Lyrics tell a different story, one of the forbidden love of an interracial couple in 1960s North Carolina.  Mipso sets the storytelling bar high with “Marianne,” a familiar approach for the band’s album openers–hook the listener from the get go and hold ’em ’til the end.

Down in the Water” follows with Rodenbough’s timeless, crisp vocals at the forefront.  The simplicity and tone of the song feel hymnal, even baptismal at times.  However, the beauty of the song emerges in its content and transcends church walls as Rodenbough pleads for a quiet and content mind–a very relatable request.  “Eliza,” a lover’s plea laced with three-part harmonies, brings a little folky waltz to the album and is sure to be a live fan favorite.

On “Bad Penny,” Terrell hits the ground running, taking listeners on a wild lyrical goose chase with his ever evolving gift of storytelling.   The song’s fiddle line elicits images of a Smoky Mountain family feud, even though the story unfolds in modern-day NYC.  It is in playing with these lyrical and musical contradictions that Mipso continues to grow and evolve as a group.

With Sharp on lead vocals, “Momma” tugs at the heartstrings, combining a Simonesque melody with Mipso harmonies and honesty.   “Father’s House” highlights the gospel influence that often accompanies Mipso’s bluegrass roots.  Here the band uses religious imagery to tackle feelings of isolation and uncertainty in life and death.

“Captain’s Daughter” sets sail on the high seas, telling the story of a lonely seaman who yearns to reunite with his land-bound love, Annabelle.  Rodenbough’s fiddle brings in Celtic tones, transporting the listener across the pond to a more rustic land where passion is fierce in both love and trade.

“Stranger,” a more modern love ballad for the group, pumps the brakes while breaking hearts.  “Honeybee” picks up the pieces and brings in a bit of sweet springtime sunshine.  Terrell convinces listeners that he’s singing from a very personal space, though in his songwriting prowess perhaps he’s just that good.

Everyone Knows” slithers in with a desperado darkness, fit for a Tarantino flick.  Though a bit of a departure for Mipso, it stands tall as the album’s best track.  On “Everyone Knows,” Mipso stepped out boldly into the dusty town square, pulled their pistols and walked away unscathed.   The only thing missing now is an accompanying video.  Jon Kasbe get your camera ready.

The album closes with “4 Train,” a love song set to a steady locomotive cadence.  Touching on familiar emotions that accompany love, “4 Train” shines a spotlight on each band member’s talents, book-ending the album perfectly.

Old Time Reverie offers listeners a solid collection of stories, steeped in traditional acoustic instrumentation and tight-knit harmonies at a steady rocking chair pace.  With each listen, you may find it easier and easier to pull yourself away from the hustle and bustle and take a moment to really live inside the beauty of a carefully crafted song.

Ironically, the members of Mipso weren’t even born when Ferris first delighted downtown Chicago with his famous renditions of “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout.”  Yet, somehow they collectively possess his spirit, charm, and ability to captivate an audience.  On Old Time Reverie, Terrell, Sharp, Robinson and Rodenbough further reveal the old souls that live in their youthful vessels–wise beyond their years, much like Mr. Bueller.

Mipso is a four-piece folk/bluegrass band out of Chapel Hill, NC consisting of Joseph Terrell (guitar), Wood Robinson (double bass), Jacob Sharp (mandolin) and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle).

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Mipso in Japan – A Documentary

The Chapel Hill-based bluegrass band Mipso spent some quality time last Summer touring through Japan, getting immersed in the Japanese culture and growing bluegrass movement. University of North Carolina alum and award-winning film maker Jon Kasbe traveled to Japan with the trio to capture their experience and share it with the world. The result below is a strikingly beautiful documentary that highlights the unharnessed power of the universal language of music. 

“On a journey that blurs the cultural divide between East and West, three young musicians travel across the world to discover that the twang of the banjo needs no translation. While performing at a bluegrass festival, jamming with fiddle virtuosos, and touring by bullet train, the band finds that the traditions rooted in their home state have far-reaching branches.”

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2014 Summer Featured Artists

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Each summer, new and seasoned artists step into the sunny spotlight and seem to shine just a little bit brighter than before.  This coming summer is no exception to the rule.  With festival lineups set, music lovers have a chance to catch these artists on multiple outdoor stages across the US.

Evolution of a Fan has chosen to feature a handful of these artists as their momentum builds. Stay tuned for features on the following artists through the end of summer:

The Milk Carton Kids

Willie Watson

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Charles Bradley

 

 

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2013 in review – Thank You Readers!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y

October 4, 1996

October 4, 1996

I was born in the late 70’s and grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC and Hartford, CT.  I knew nothing of the “streets” or city life, although I was drawn to it.  I wanted to understand the world that was so different from mine. So, like any curious little suburban girl, I grasped for things that I thought would bring me closer to that understanding. I watched “Breakin’,” wore my pink and gray parachute pants and practiced my head spins as often as I could.  At the time, it seemed logical–I was 6 years old.

Despite my desire and incessant practicing, I quickly learned that breakdancing was not my calling.  Soon thereafter, I found a new obsession–hip-hop–lurking closely behind the breakdancing culture that exploded in the 80s.  In 1985, I stood in a family friend’s bedroom with my older brother and listened to Run DMC’s “King of Rock” album.  I had never heard anything like it, but I wanted more. Soon thereafter, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Big Daddy Kane found their way to our boom box and we were hooked.

Fast-forward to our family trip to San Diego in 1990. On a hot summer day, my brother and I roamed through a flea market before heading to a Padres game with our parents. I spotted the stand that sold cassette singles and started scanning the titles.  At that time, cassette singles were where it was at.  You’d get the original track along with maybe 2-3 remixes without having to buy the whole album.  It was at this flea market stand where I purchased the small chunk of hip-hop history that would forever shape how I measure hip-hop from that point on–“I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” by A Tribe Called Quest.

I wore that cassette single out to the point where it literally would not play anymore.  I bought the album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” and watched Yo! MTV Raps as much as I could, just to get a glimpse of Tribe videos and interviews.  My catalog of hip-hop grew, but I always fell back on Tribe as the best.  I thrived off of the beats, the samples, the flow, the lyrics, the intellect, and the fact that they celebrated their uniqueness without a care in the world.

The next two albums, “Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders,” solidified Tribe’ place at the top. I was supposed to go see them perform at Lollapallooza in 1994 but was sidelined by a yearly physical that somehow couldn’t be rescheduled (Note to self:  if my future child has a doctor’s appointment on the same day as a concert where he/she will get to experience his/her favorite band for the first time live, I will let the child go to the show).  I was devastated, and had to wait another 2 years until they came through and played at the college I was attending.  It was my freshman year and the only time I’ve ever seen them live.  I rode the rail, rapped along with them like I was the 5th member, and even got a wave and smile from Q-Tip after the show.

To this day, I continue to find surprises in Tribe’s songs–a witty lyric I somehow missed or a sample that now jumps out and makes listening to Tribe a new experience.  I think something in hip-hop died when Tribe dissolved.  Even though there are a handful of musicians that still try to carry Tribe’s torch and light that path of hip-hop, there still feels like something is missing.

I spent most of my teens and twenties immersed in hip-hop.  Once Tribe called it quits, I turned to groups like Outkast, The Roots, Del the Funky Homosapein and Mos Def.  These musicians excited me in the same way Tribe did, but never enough to knock Q-Tip, Phife, Ali, and Jarobi off of their pedestal.  While it is true that all good things come to an end, from a fan’s point of view it is never easy to watch.  Fans are greedy and sometimes forget that musicians are real people with real problems.

Recently, I was turned on to “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” a 2011 documentary directed by actor Michael Rapaport. This documentary speaks to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows of my favorite hip-hop group.  It was sad to watch, but joyful at the same time because it transported me back to those years when Tribe’s albums dropped and gave us some of the best music that the world has ever heard.  Even for those readers who never got into A Tribe Called Quest, this documentary is worth your time and attention.  Enjoy!

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2013…The Year of the Fan!

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With 2013 coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on another spectacular year of music.  Live music pulled me to many different corners of our beautiful United States.  From Rhode Island’s Newport Harbor to Colorado’s Red Rocks and everywhere in between, I’ve been lifted up by the music and the many friends and fans I’ve met along the way.

I know 2014 will bring many new musical experiences–already have 5 concerts on the books so far–however, I’d like to take this opportunity to share my 2013 Top 10 EOAF Moments:

10. Watching Jay-Z and JT somehow get a sold-out Fenway Park to sing along to “Empire State of Mind” with little to no resistance, might I add.  Perhaps all it takes is these two powerhouse performers to dissolve decades of hatred between Bostonians and New Yorkers.  Not too sure New Yorkers would have done the same if roles were reversed!

9. Filling our home with the imperfect but impeccable sounds of vinyl, and the constant chase to find my next favorite record at the thrift shop…oh and my first Record Store Day, too!

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8. Being one of 200 people at MerleFest who got to listen to Wayne Henderson tell the story about the first guitar he ever made.  That sweet, humble man seriously blew my mind.

7. Experiencing my first live Bob Dylan performance.  Even though I could barely understand him, I knew I was in the presence of folk greatness!

6. Being a part of this wonderful “Thank You” project…

5. Stumbling upon the surprise songwriters session at Newport Folk Festival and spending the morning listening to Langhorne Slim and Scott and Seth Avett play and answer questions from a small audience (capped off by a Jim James eyes closed staring contest).

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4. Experiencing The Avett Brothers’ performance of “Complainte D’Un Matelot Mourant” at Red Rocks Night 1 — to try to describe the ghostly wind that blew down through the rock amphitheater to the stage would be impossible.  Even the video doesn’t do it justice.

3. Being one day late from experiencing The Milk Carton Kids at Newport Folk Festival, but falling in love with them through the NPR podcast anyway.  They are by far the best musical discovery of the year!

2. Experiencing Neutral Milk Hotel live at The National in Richmond, VA.  The musical saw performance alone was worth the trip.

1. Being involved in the recording process from start to finish, and then hearing the absolutely amazing final product.  Thanks to Rebekah Todd for having me along for the ride! (“Roots Bury Deep” out in early 2014)

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Thank you all for coming back time and time again to pay EOAF a visit.  Next year we hope to bring you more exciting music news, reviews, guest bloggers, and more.  Merry music cheers and happy ears in 2014!

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