Monday, November 30, 2009


On November 22nd, Jon Foreman and the members of the San Diego-based, alternative rock band, Switchfoot, played a sold-out show at Exit/In in Nashville.
The band was on tour to promote Hello Hurricane, the latest and seventh album released in their 13-year career. Posters of the album art covered the backdrop of the stage and plastic seagulls hung from the ceiling. The stage was large enough to hold the typical band setup- drums, keyboards, and an arsenal of guitars. The venue itself could be described as a smaller Workplay with a bar and balcony and was filled to capacity with a standing-room only audience of 160, who had come from such diverse locations as Illinois, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, and Kentucky.
The first set for each concert of the tour had been the same; play the new album from beginning to end. This effort could either fail or succeed depending on the participation of the crowd. Fortunately for Switchfoot, the crowd seemed to have memorized almost every lyric and sang along as if Hello Hurricane had been around for years.
Foreman and his bandmates even experimented with the musical stylings of these new songs by bringing out a mandolin for “Hello Hurricane” and album closer “Red Eyes,” a baby grand piano for “Always,” a cow bell for “Bullet Soul,” and an accordion, a harmonica, and a tambourine for “Yet.”
After a short intermission, the band came out for a “Greatest Hits” set. Before the concert, Foreman had sent out a message on the band’s Twitter account asking the audience if they had any song requests. The most popular requests played at the show included Switchfoot’s biggest radio hits (“Meant to Live,” “Dare You to Move,” “Stars,” “Awakening,” and “Oh Gravity”) and fan favorites (“Let That Be Enough,” “On Fire,” “Learning to Breathe,” and “Twenty Four”).
Though Foreman consistently addressed the audience throughout the concert, he managed to bring his crowd interaction to a new level at the beginning of the second set. He borrowed hats and sunglasses from various members of the audience, used a man’s camera to film a video of the venue during “Awakening,” took out his own camera to snap a picture of the audience, and hopped off the stage several times to walk amongst the fans. He served as frontman and entertainer, as well as conductor for the orchestra of fans singing at the top of their lungs.
The most memorable moment of the concert happened during “Dare You to Move.” Foreman left the stage, walked up the stairs, and leaned on the edge of the balcony during the second verse and chorus. During the song, he looked as if he intended to jump from the balcony into the middle of the crowd. He soon realized there was not a safe place to land, ran down the stairs, and finished the song onstage, much to the disappointment of the audience and to the relief of his band mates.
The concert did have one imperfection. Foreman’s vocals cut in and out or at least seemed lower than usual during a few of the slower numbers. However, the band made up for it with their charisma and showmanship. Foreman made a point to make the show unique by including stories of how much Nashville meant to him and the band (he wrote “Let That Be Enough” at a Nashville hotel during the band’s 1999 tour). This night at Exit/In would mark yet another memorable concert for the band and their fans. Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, November 27, 2009


Riding the wave of momentum from their sophomore release, Armistice, the alternative rock/electronic act, Mutemath, paid a visit to the Magic City on November 2nd. The quartet from New Orleans has already built a loyal following in the Birmingham area with shows at both the Workplay Theatre and Soundstage; their last appearance was in November 2007.

This time around, the band took their act to the Alabama Theatre. Opening act, As Tall as Lions, failed to appear due to travel dilemmas so a D.J. filled in for the 8 o clock slot. Though the remixes of current and classic hits were enjoyable for the first half hour or so, the audience was anxiously waiting for Mutemath to hit the stage. Finally, the band started up their set with a high-energy performance of “The Nerve.” From there, the band proceeded to capture the audience with its unique mix of music, stage antics, and media.

The songs stemmed mainly from Armistice and their self-titled record and included renditions of “Spotlight,” “Backfire,” “Anymore,” “No Response,” and fan favorites “Typical,” “Stare at the Sun,” and “Reset.” The band incorporated several instruments in their set including an array of keyboards, guitars and keytars, an upright bass, voice modifiers, a full drum kit, and an extra bass drum that lit up when played; lead vocalist Paul Meany even used his piano stool as a percussion instrument during “Stare at the Sun.”

The backdrop resembled the cover of Armistice and provided the mixed media portion of the show. Live feed of the band as well as scenes from miscellaneous videos appeared on the screen for several songs and guided the show visually. The technical element of the concert also relied heavily on the lighting, which effectively set the mood and built suspense for the individual songs.

Known for their on-stage feats and acrobatics, the band was all over the stage. Meany did handstands on the keyboards, leapt into the air, and rushed into the audience, who rewarded him with a plethora of high fives and shouted admirations. Guitarist Greg Hill and bassist Roy Mitchell-Cardenas participated in the chaos as well by moving to and from the different instruments throughout the show. However, they seemed to have been given the responsibility of ‘holding down the fort’ in order to maintain the tempo of the music, allowing the other two members to orchestrate more daring feats.

Drummer Darren King provided the most memorable moment of the evening. During the final song, King punched out the center of his bass drum, put it over his head, and proceeded to play blindly. One could only speculate the consequences of returning to the days of the instrument-smashing grunge era, but it proved effective for this particular concert.

Overall, the band put on a successful show, with the exception of a few lulls in the middle of the set; not to say that the theatrics were not entertaining, but the constant pulse seemed to be wearisome at times. Hopefully, Mutemath’s novelty will not wear thin and the forthcoming concerts will be even more extravagant.


As seen with Transformers 1 and 2 and G.I. Joe, taking a childhood icon and producing it into a full-length feature film carries an array of risks these days. Directors face the pressure of interpreting their own version of the toy, TV show, or book as well as keeping and promoting the original theme in order to satisfy audiences. The latest film in this category is Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are.

Viewers have swayed mainly between two positions; either the film impressed them or severely disappointed them. I’ve heard a variety of descriptions from my peers such as “hipster movie of the year,” “Where the Wild Things Angst,” “brilliant,” and “iconic.” I side with the ones who thoroughly enjoyed the film and walked out of the theatre with a smile.

For those of you who don’t know why the film has been so highly so anticipated, I’ll give you a bit of background. In 1963, writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak wrote an award-winning children’s picture book called Where the Wild Things Are. The 9-sentence, 338-word book follows the journey of a boy named Max. A wild thing himself, Max dresses up in a wolf costume, threatens to eat his mother, and is sent to bed without supper. In his room, he imagines that he travels to a far off land full of wild monsters, who eventually make Max “King of the Wild Things.” After a chaotic “wild rumpus” through the woods, Max begins to feel homesick. He leaves the Wild Things and returns home to find his hot supper waiting in his room.

After several animated adaptations of the book, Jonze (Adaptation and Being John Malchovich) and author Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and You Shall Know Our Velocity!) penned the screenplay for the live action version. Jonze directed and Maurice Sendak took on the role of producer. The cast includes an ensemble of new and veteran actors, including Max Records as Max, Catherine Keener as the mother, and James Galdofini, Paul Dano, Lauren Ambrose, Forrest Whittaker, Catherine O’Hara, and Chris Cooper as the Wild Things.

The movie follows the book fairly well, with some much needed additions to make it 102 minutes. Eggers and Jonze add several scenes in the beginning to reveal Max’s turbulent home life and to express his need for escape. Instead of going to his room, Max runs through the woods until he reaches the land of the wild things, who were made through a combination of puppetry and digital effects. He captures the loyalty of the creatures by threatening to reveal his magical powers and they crown him King. The main wild thing, Gandolfini’s Carol, entrusts Max with his vision to create the perfect dwelling, where all the wild things can sleep together in a pile and live together in peace

Bringing and keeping happiness seems to Max’s main objective as king, a task he finds very easy through events such “the wild rumpus” and a dirt clod war. These are the moments when the movie really comes alive, with the soundtrack (written by Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) pulsating in the background. Most people, including myself, probably wished for an extended rumpus, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

The screenplay adds an interesting psychological twist to the original story. Each wild thing’s personality possesses some element of Max’s emotions, including rage, insecurity, happiness, and loyalty. By seeing his feelings manifested in this way allows Max to reconcile his turmoil and come to a point where he can return home to the “place where he is loved the most.” Viewers will also be intrigued by the way Jonze presents one of the book’s most famous lines: “Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up. We love you so.”

Lovers of the book are now middle-aged and college-aged and personally I think these groups are the audiences with whom the film will most resonate. Not to say you shouldn’t take your kids or younger siblings, but be aware that Jonze wrote the film for both kids and adults, so some of the themes require some level of maturity; Eggers’ dark humor comes through several times throughout the movie. Overall, however, the film is a moving, heartfelt journey and allows us to see a childhood tale come to life in an unforge


Upon seeing the name and hearing a snippet of music from this San Diego, California-based, Americana and folk-laden group, you may be quick to stash them under the same category as say, The Avett Brothers. Acoustic guitars, banjos, pianos, and infectious harmonies. Seems so formulaic and predictable, right? Further investigation will reveal that with their incessant touring, energetic live shows (which can last up to 4 hours) and growing catalog of original songs, the Smart Brothers (Lou and Jay)are making a strong name for themselves.
Their journey as a band has brought them to several major cities across the United States including Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Montevallo. They have garnered several nominations and awards during this time including San Diego Music Award nominations for Best New Act and Best Americana Act, Best of the (Gulf ) Coast 2009, and winner of the Songwriter Shootout at Eddie's Attic in Atlanta. They currently have two albums out; 2008’s self-titled EP and 2009’s My Baby.
I recently had a chance about to talk to Lou about the beginnings of the band, life on the road, and upcoming goals and projects.
CKD: Describe the musical journey of the band (how each of you got started in music and how the band formed).
LS: Well, we’ve been singing together since we were born. Then when I was 6 and Jay was 8 our grandpa taught us how to play the ukulele. He’s first generation from Portugal. We’ve played music and been writing songs together since then, in punk, metal, and indie acts. We started this group two years ago when we couldn’t practice with the volume turned up because we were living in an apartment complex. Our neighbors had just had a baby and we didn’t want to wake him. We traded our electric instruments in for acoustics and started playing on the street for money. We quit our day jobs and have been on the road ever since.
CK: When it comes to songwriting, to what common themes do you guys find yourselves returning?
LS: We pretty much write about anything that inspires us, which is usually love and all the things related to it. We don’t have any sad songs really.
3. What are some of your biggest influences?
LS: We like; The Beach Boys, the Everly Bros., Queen, Andrea Bocelli, Elvis, Tina Turner, Dion, and Jackie Wilson
CKD: What are some of your favorite cities and venues to play?
LS: Anywhere with nice people.
CKD: What is the name of your upcoming project? Describe the songwriting and recording process.
LS: We don’t have a title as of yet. The recording and writing process has been pretty different from what we’ve done before. We wrote all the songs that are going to be on it in about a month. The recording is much more minimal than our previous projects, much grittier and honest.
CKD: What song, out of your entire catalog, would you say means the most to you and why? Are there songs that never leave the set list?-
LS: We don’t really have a favorite song. Each song is like a child, special and unique. Each one represents a time in your life and it brings you and others back to that place each time you play it. We always change up the set list.
CKD: How do you feel you guys have progressed over your time as a band, both individually and collectively?
LS: The band has changes so much over the past two years. We’ve gone from street performers to touring musicians who can afford to do so. It’s awesome to do this for a job and we appreciate everyone who makes it possible. As people we have both learned more about each other and have grown closer. This job puts you under a lot of stress and in some crazy positions at times, and if we didn’t have each other we’d both be in some serious trouble.
CKD: What are some of your goals for the next year to year and a half?
LS: Our goal is to keep doing what we’re doing, we meet the best people through this band. Maybe go to Canada and Mexico too.
CKD: Any advice to offer fledgling songwriters and bands?
LS: Stay in school.
The band will be playing Friday, October 30th at Eclipse in Montevallo. The band says Montevallo is one of their most favorite places to play so expect a fantastic show. To sample their music, go to .