Category Archives: Gigs to See

Periphery at Exit/In Tonight @MetalIsMusicToo

Periphery will be melting faces at Exit/In (not Rand) tonight.  Doors open at 7pm.

Periphery will be melting faces at Exit/In (not Rand) tonight. Doors open at 7pm.

For those of you there on that fateful afternoon in Rand almost two years ago, you remember it as one of the oddest sensory juxtapositions in your Vanderbilt career.

It was, at first, an ordinary lunch hour for the students in our campus dining hall.  Some were studying, their laptops and notebooks strewn about, taking up four-person tables all by themselves.  Others were casually munching on their Randwiches and “gourmet” Chef James meals and chatting with friends.  Many were multitasking.

Then, the music started.  At first, it was just a rush of distortion in the background, barely registering in ears so unaccustomed to hearing it.  But it soon became clear that this was no mere technical accident.  The speakers in Rand were playing metal–replete with screams and growls of vocals and guitars and lacking any consistent melody or rhythm.

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The Evolution of Matisyahu

Matisyahu, mid-2000s (top) and 2014 (bottom).

Today, Vanderbilt will host its most esteemed musical visitor, excluding Rites and Quake, since Billy Joel (and Michael Pollack) captivated a sold-out Langford Auditorium almost two years ago.  Matisyahu burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s, delivering a powerful reggae sound laced with traces of rock, hip-hop, and his trademark Judaism-inspired lyrics.  It was a wonder to behold him commanding the stage in traditional Hasidic dress, complete with yarmulke and full beard, while performing in a style that broke the mold of Jewish orthodoxy and tradition.  We listened in awe as “King Without a Crown” leapt to #28 on the Billboard Top 100, easily the highest a song with explicitly Jewish lyrics has ever charted.  We sang along to the powerful “One Day,” which was remixed with new verses by Akon.  And then those of us outside the reggae community allowed Matisyahu to slip from our consciousness.

The Matisyahu who will be walking around West End today looks far different from the Matisyahu of ten years ago.  Gone is the beard, as is the yarmulke–he wears a clean-shaven look topped by a mop of graying hair.  The music, while it still contains Judaism at its heart, has become more secular and more diverse in style, reflecting the man’s continuing spiritual journey.  But Matisyahu is as active as ever, having released his fifth studio album Akeda in June and touring extensively in support of the LP.  In light of this metamorphosis, let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of Matisyahu’s decade-long career.

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A First Look at the Rites of Spring Battle of the Bands

The Rites of Spring Battle of the Bands provides a great opportunity for local bands to play on a big stage--and for you to discover their music!

The Rites of Spring Battle of the Bands provides a great opportunity for local bands to play on a big stage–and for you to discover their music!

It’s that time of year again at Vanderbilt.  The Student Alumni Board is passing out free shirts at Rand; there are dozens of garbage bins lounging pell-mell on Alumni Lawn; the fraternities are gearing up for their crawfish boils and pig roasts; fierce debate regarding 2 Chainz’ arraignment echoes across campus.  What else could it be but Rites Week?

Love it or hate it (and, as always, there’s been a lot of both emotions in reaction to this year’s lineup), the week of Rites of Spring is the best time for music at Vanderbilt every year.  Though the main event will be an epic spectacle that should trump last year’s in terms of debauchery and Dionysian life force–after all, NEEDTOBREATHE probably played before the most sober Rites crowd ever–my favorite part of the week is the Battle of the Bands, which will take place this Thursday at 7:30 PM in Rand Lounge/Dank New Rand.  The Battle of the Bands is easy to overlook, especially with the winners’ prize being the chance to play on Friday afternoon before most students will want to arrive, but it’s a great showcase of some local talent (including a number of Vanderbilt-based acts) and winning would be a tremendous affirmation for any of the competitors.  And this year, you as an audience member have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in determining the battle’s victor, as the crowd’s vote will account for two-fifths of the final decision (alongside the three judges).  The idea seems to be that the winner should be able to draw a crowd to Rites as early as possible, with the ability to do this on a Thursday night supposedly predictive of the ability to follow suit the next afternoon.  So if you are friends with one or more of the contestants, the most important thing you can do for them is to show up at the battle on Thursday night and bring a pack of friends along for the ride.

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Matt Robinson and an Exciting Metal Concert

Hey y’all,

Thanks to those of you who tuned in for the show last night.  Matt Robinson played some awesome music and we had some great conversation.  I am so inspired by his decision to take a year off of school to work solely on his writing; it will definitely benefit him in the future.  You can check out the full show below.

In other news, I’m going to my second-ever metal concert ever on Friday night at Cannery Ballroom.  Between the Buried and Me is the headliner, and they will be playing their most recent album, Parallax II: Future Sequence, in its entirety.

When you get past the screaming, Between the Buried and Me makes damn good music.

When you get past the screaming, Between the Buried and Me makes damn good music.

I first got turned on to these guys in my senior year of high school.  My friend Collin Shapiro showed me their instrumental stuff, so I wouldn’t be turned off by the screaming vocals.  Since then, I have come to be able to appreciate the complexity and beauty of the music while tolerating Tommy Rogers’ screams on top of it.  Have a listen to Parallax II below.

Also playing at the concert will be The Safety Fire, The Contortionist, and The Faceless.  It’s gonna be a great show!

-DJ Zach

Muse and Cage the Elephant to play Bridgestone

So pumped to see these guys rock the 'Stone tomorrow night.

Hey everybody,

First of all, Shanah Tovah to all of you welcoming in the Jewish New Year.  I would be at synagogue myself but I’m simply too lazy (I just tell people I have class all day, which is partially true).

More relevantly to this blog, tomorrow I’ll be going to see Muse and Cage the Elephant at Bridgestone Arena.  Interestingly, all floor seats were sold as general admission, to which I ask the following: will there be first-come first-serve chairs, or will the massive floor of Bridgestone become one gigantic mosh pit?  I’m uncertain which I would prefer.  On the one hand, seats would allow me to sit and appreciate the music; on the other hand, a mosh pit would be a much wilder, and probably more memorable, experience.  Either way, I’m planning on getting downtown right around or just after lunch to ensure that my #shortpeopleproblems won’t come into play.  I had a front-row view for both Billy Joel and Rites, and I am intent upon keeping that high standard.

I don't know much about Cage the Elephant but I'm excited to learn more.  Hopefully the guy in the yellow shirt is joking around.

I don’t know much about Cage the Elephant but I’m excited to learn more. Hopefully the guy in the yellow shirt is joking around.

In terms of the music itself, I have always liked Muse decently well and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” is a good song, but I really don’t know either of these bands too well.  I have, however, been listening to a ton of Muse over the past week to prepare myself for the show, and here are a couple takeaways I have gleaned from them:

– They are a much heavier band than I previously thought.  This was especially evident in their earlier music, particularly on their 2003 release Absolution.  Although they have incorporated more synths, electronic effects, and even dubstep into their music over the years, this hard rock core is still very much intact.  One listen to “Supremacy,” the first song off their most recent album The 2nd Law, proves this.  It will be interesting to see how they change up the pace between their earlier headbangers and their more recent space/glam/electro-rock.  Most importantly, though, Bellamy better be wearing this Glorious All-Red outfit.

(I sincerely hope some of you understood that pun.)
– Their style has evolved over the years.  Some of their fans are not too pleased with this, vilifying the growling electro-bass on “Madness” and the straight-up dance music that is “Follow Me,” among other things.  I, however, think it’s cool that Muse is changing with the times.  They still have all the things that make them Muse: Matthew Bellamy’s falsetto, classical music infusions into post-grunge sound, lyrics dealing with an us-against-the-world type of love, etc.  But a band that keeps a consistent sound over the years stays put in that time period.  A prime example of this is AC/DC.  Australia’s biggest contribution to rock music is noted for their straightforward riffs, even beats, and distinctive screeching vocals.  That they are world-famous and influential cannot be doubted, but I would contend that they have had no role in pushing music forward.  For example, have a listen to the following two AC/DC songs:

Which of these songs was written in 1980, and which in 2008?  It’s almost impossible to tell, unless you are a diehard fan of the band.  Brian Johnson’s vocal chords have aged, but the style is exactly the same.  AC/DC can be lauded for “staying true to themselves,” but what kind of band completely shuts themselves off from outside influence?  Art is a reflection of the world in which it is created and of the personality of its creators; has AC/DC been living in a world that hasn’t changed since the late 1970s?  Artistically, AC/DC has done very little to take music in a new and progressive direction.  Their fans will defend them to the death for it.  But as a musician and a follower of the times, I see AC/DC as a static relic of my parents’ college years, a band that may have seemed cool when I was a little kid first picking up a guitar but which I left behind long ago, moving on to more creative, innovative music.

The message here is that Muse, unlike AC/DC, has tastefully incorporated new styles into their music while continuing to let their distinct signature as a band shine through.  You can’t listen to any of the songs on The 2nd Law, except perhaps for the two-part titular electro-odyssey at the end, and not recognize that you are listening to Muse.  But it’s nice to be able to tell that you are listening to Muse in 2013 and not in 2003.  It’s always a risk when a band changes their style, because they risk losing fans who resist change and who came to love a snapshot of the band as they were at a particular moment.  But, if done well, the incorporation of modern music trends is not only vital to the growth of popular music as a whole, but also a factor that ensures the lasting legacy of a band.  Those of us who have read Darwin know that species survive through naturally selective adaptation to a changing world.  It is no different in music.  And though AC/DC has survived to this point, it’s hard to take them seriously as a force in today’s world of music.

Like the brain depicted on the cover of The 2nd Law, Muse has constantly evolved over time.

Like the brain depicted on the cover of The 2nd Law, Muse has constantly evolved over time.

Well, that was a long tangent.  Suffice it to say that I am eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s concert.  Muse is supposedly a dynamic live act, and their music, as I’ve already described, is innovative yet distinctive.  I’ll be back with a review of the show on Saturday (by which time I will also know a lot more about Cage the Elephant).  In the mean time, be sure to mark your calendars for Sunday at 9pm central, when Eli Teplin will be appearing on The VU Backstage.  As always, please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.  Peace out and, to all members of the Tribe, happy new year.


Rites of Spring: Battle of the Bands + This Weekend’s Schedule

Hey everybody,

The middle of April means a few things at Vanderbilt: the weather, though still completely unpredictable, is at least warm on a consistent basis…the only thing that’s dead during Dead Week is students’ sleep…and Rites of Spring is FINALLY HERE (accompanied by day ragers at every fraternity).  This is the best musical event on campus all year, and so here at The VU Backstage we’re naturally very excited.  Since our initial review of the Rites lineup, three more bands have been added to the schedule: Humming House, The Kicks, and Delta Spirit.  Humming House is a country group with definite indie folk influence, characterized by quick-strumming guitar and mandolin, a fiddler, and male and female vocals working together.  The Kicks are looking to provide the weekend’s hard rock fix.  Their four-piece outfit has a modern-rock sound, very chord-based, but is unafraid to break it down at times.  Delta Spirit is probably the biggest addition made to the lineup.  They fit nicely into the current movement of rock back towards roots-style music, complete with the reverb-heavy production, light guitar work, and driving rhythms that underlie the modern folk rock revival.

Before we hear these or any other acts, though, we’ll be hearing from the Battle of the Bands winners, who were determined last night: Joel Heumann on Friday, and Acklen on Saturday.  I covered the Battle of the Bands for WRVU and can assert that these two acts won because they have phenomenal energy and engaged the crowd, not to mention that they have a decent amount of musical talent.  Joel Heumann brings a modern twist to 1940s big band music; he sounds like Michael Buble and sings atop a band that contains a three-piece horn section within a driving rock sound.  From what I saw, he is also a highly enthusiastic front man who should get the crowd pumped up for the rest of the evening.  Acklen is a fairly typical four-man rock band with a definite Nashville influence evident in their music.  It’s fairly roots-driven, although the lead guitarist can shred on his solos.  Interestingly, the rhythm guitarist did most of the talking for the band and was also the most lively on stage.

Acklen is one of two Battle of the Bands winners...Joel Heumann is the other.

Acklen is one of two Battle of the Bands winners…Joel Heumann is the other.

A couple random thoughts about the Battle of the Bands overall.  First, it appears that horns are making a comeback in rock music.  Four of the eight bands featured at least one brass instrument, and a fifth, New South Whales, has a sax player who wasn’t at the concert last night.  As a fan of bands like Chicago and Steely Dan, this makes me very happy.  Brass instruments add an incredibly rich sound and provide classy energy, not to mention the fact that the saxophone may be the single sexiest instrument in the world when played well.  Second, and more importantly, WHERE WERE THE VANDY BANDS?  Only two out of the eight acts in last night’s show were comprised of Vanderbilt students (Chicken Kings of Jamaica and New South Whales), and neither will be playing at Rites.  From my experience on The VU Backstage, I know that the #vandymusicscene consists mainly of singer-songwriters, most likely because it is hard to get four or five people together regularly to write and practice songs.  Still, the lack of Vanderbilt entrants in a Vanderbilt-sponsored competition irritated me, and is representative of the work that still needs to be done to build Vanderbilt’s music scene to a respectable level.

That’s all for now.  Stay tuned to The VU Backstage for comprehensive Rites of Spring coverage all weekend, including live tweeting and reviews of each act.  Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!  In case you were wondering, here’s the schedule of performances this weekend:

Friday, April 19, 2013

5:10 – 5:30pm  Joel Heumann – Battle of the Bands Winner

5:50pm – 6:20pm  Humming House

6:40pm – 7:10pm  The Kicks

7:30pm – 8:30pm  Baauer

8:50pm –  9:50pm  Miguel

10:20pm – 11:50pm  Rusko

Saturday, April 20, 2013

4:20pm – 4:50pm  Acklen – Battle of the Band Winner

5:10pm – 5:55pm  Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

6:15pm – 7:00pm The Apache Relay

7:20pm – 8:05pm  Juvenile

8:25pm – 9:10pm  Delta Spirit

9:30pm – 10:30pm  Mat Kearney

11:00pm – 12:30am  NEEDTOBREATHE

And after all of this is said and done, be sure to tune in to The VU Backstage on Sunday night, featuring Vanderbilt country artist Elizabeth Lyons!

Have a great music-filled weekend,

DJ Zach

Julia Cole Tearing it Up

Hey everybody,

Here at The VU Backstage, our slogan is “The best talent Vanderbilt has to offer.”  I believe true talent and passion is 95% of what is needed to succeed in music, with that other 5% being a discovery, that little push by a friendly connection that gets an artist over the hump and into the limelight.  My ultimate fantasy would be for some artist to be discovered by a producer who tunes in to The VU Backstage, and for that artist to subsequently make it big.  What Julia Cole is doing is a close second to this.

Since Julia came on the show on January 20th, she has blown up, getting tens of thousands of views on her YouTube channel (check out her newest video here), releasing an EP, and emceeing and performing at the Rodeo RockStar contest at the Rodeo festival in Houston, where she dazzled the crowd.  It makes me so proud of the #vandymusicscene when a Vanderbilt student goes out and does all these amazing things; it’s proof that a driven person can be a full-time student at a top 20 university while seriously pursuing the life of a musician.  Take that, Belmont.

Julia Cole brings down the house at the Houston Rodeo

Julia Cole brings down the house at the Houston Rodeo.

I can’t wait to see what Julia gets done in the coming months…if the start of this year is any indication, she will be a superstar before she graduates in 2016.  Be sure to check out her EP…it contains a few tracks from her appearance on The VU Backstage!

Anyways, Eli Teplin is performing at 12th and Porter tomorrow night at 6.  Come join me in support of another immensely talented Vanderbilt artist!  Also, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and be sure to tune in this Sunday at the usual time for Teddy Lawrence!

-DJ Zach