Five years ago last week, I posted a blog on one of my favorite ska records to come out in the last decade…Firewalk from The Prizefighters. In honor of that record, here is the review I did of that fantastic album! If you are not already a fan of this band, you should be – so give a read and give a listen!
Originally posted February 5th, 2019
The Prizefighters are a Midwest rocksteady force to be reckoned with, and I have no problem saying they are leaders in their genre right now as a still fairly young band. I first heard them in the infancy of this blog when I reviewed their record Follow My Sound back in 2012. Not long after that, this blog went on a hiatus for a couple years while this band continued to build their mastery of the ska and rocksteady sound. This is no exaggeration.
The Prizefighters have been a backing band for respected legends like Derrick Morgan, Stranger Cole and Patsy Todd, Roy Panton and Yvonne Harrison, just to name a few. They have teamed up with legendary harmonica player and vocalist Charlie Organaire on a trio of 45rpm singles (released on Jump Up! Records) and a European tour. When it comes to an American band injecting real authenticity into a Jamaican sound, the Prizefighters have done more than their share of homework. They present this respectfully and as authentically as possible. This is clearly evident when you hear their new album, Firewalk.
The love and deep respect for the ska and rocksteady sounds is loud and clear through this record. In fact, the album was recorded in a 100% analog environment to preserve that sound and energy and it truly has the feel of something straight out of the 1960’s. I was immediately impressed by this. In a modern recording world with so many artists relying on technology to polish their sound, I respect deeply how much care went into the preservation of that vibe that we all know and love. It was perfectly captured. The groove of the record itself from start to finish is purely classic while still highlighting the modern chops of this band.
Right out of the gate, the record is a hitter. The opening track, Just Let The Music Play, has a steady bass groove, great smooth horns, and a gentle but hitting vocal. The next track, You’ll Never Know, kicks the energy right up with a sound that sends you straight back to the 60’s with the beat and the vocal energy. This is a fun song, and the horn and drum work is great, capturing that energy and sending it upwards and outwards. I would look forward to seeing this one done live, it’s a LOT of fun.
As much as I dig the Prizefighters’ vocals, they do a fantastic job with the traditional rocksteady sound as an instrumental as well. The third track on the album, The Accolade, is a great example of what they can do without vocal. Spectacular brass work and that steady chugging groove keeps feet tapping through to the end. Bebop Rocksteady is another one. It kicks right in with those horns to grab you and then holds on tight with a steady drum and bass groove. The thing about these folks is the way they make the music sing without having to say a word. They bring all the energy of an enormous crowd and funnel it through horns and bass to come out steady and smooth.
Skip on over to Burnt Toast and Black Coffee next and feel the energy immediately. That cool sound, great backup vocals, a great modern yet traditional sound. The vocals on this one are probably my favorite on the whole record. The title track, Firewalk, is another one worth mentioning. It’s got a sexy, creeping groove and these quick and shadowy vocals woven in that get right to the heart of the matter, “If the ground gets too hot, you must do the fire walk…” The sax work is really catchy and this track is the kind that will stick with you while keeping you moving. This is not a record to stand still listening to at all.
All in all, this record is a must have. There is a lot of big talk out there about capturing a traditional sound and vibe in a recording. Usually instead, you get something concocted and over produced. The Prizefighters took their love for that sound and brought it way back. It rings bells in the soul to listen to their work on this record. It’s really, really well done.
Firewalk will be available on CD, cassette (yes!), and digital on February 15th. There will also be a vinyl release on Jump Up! Records later on in 2019, if you want to add some Prizefighters goodness to your library. The band’s record release show will be happening at the Turf Club in St. Paul, MN on February 15th, presented by Ska Brewing. For those of us on the East Coast, we can expect the band for a tour later on this year as well so we can get our own booty’s shaking.
If you have been following the Brooklyn jam scene over the last few years, you might be familiar with the band PEAK. If you follow this blog, you surely are. The force to be reckoned with holding down the keyboard and providing the primary backups and vocal solos is the one and only Johnny Young. A multi-instrumentalist, including piano, guitar, drums and percussion, Johnny Young has played with a ton of artists and toured all over the world. His solo vocal tracks with the band such as, “It Ain’t Over ‘til the Credits Roll” emphasize his prowess as a solo powerhouse on stage and off. Beyond all that, Johnny is just a fantastic human being.
His online bio goes on to say that he has either headlined or opened “…for both the famous and the obscure.” Obviously, I know him best for his work with PEAK but he’s also an Emmy Award winning composer with work in a variety of soaps as well as the Oprah Winfrey Show. He has worked in bands with folks like Giant Flying Turtles and Mick Taylor, just to name a few. At home in Brooklyn, he runs a full studio space doing recording. When it comes to all around accomplished musicians, Johnny is an outstanding example of getting it all done and then some and how good that can sound. It should be no surprise that when it comes to a full length solo record, he is going to throw down with a little bit of everything in the pot – and that is exactly what he has done.
Johnny’s recent solo release, Up All Night, showcases just how well he knows his way around a song, both writing it and laying it all out musically. The album is a wild trip from start to finish, and it’s a trip well worth taking.
The tracks are rocking while still having a hint of ethereal flight with strong lyrics and a solid, every changing groove. You can stay on the ground and move yourself with the beat, or you can sit and think on the sentiment, the mood, and the words. Songs like Law of Gravity kick you with hard hitting drum power and soaring vocals that are laid across a cool, bluesy vibe. Those awesome drums were laid down by Rich Zuckor who can also be heard on three other tracks across the record. In contrast, the track Never Let Go sounds like it could be a movie soundtrack staple with its great vocal overlays and catchy piano. A song like I’m Feeling Alright brings a funky, jazzy pace that is not only fun, but feels like something I need to have in my headphones all day every day for the lyrical inspiration alone. This song is a vibe! My favorite song on the album though is Searching for a Clue with its dirty cool vibe and stop and go tempo that reminds me of something heard in a dark, smoky after hours club, late at night. Totally danceable, totally sing-a-long friendly, and just a really good time. There is fantastic drum assistance on four of the tracks The whole album is a great eclectic mix of styles from pop, and rock to jazz and R&B.
The full album, Up All Night, from Johnny Young is available now on all major streaming platforms. You don’t have to take my word for it, but this album is a unique step into the well rounded, well versed rock and roll world Johnny has spent his life cultivating – and it’s a damn good time!
Jeremy Hilliard is that multifaceted musician’s musician who cannot be pinned down to one scene, one vibe, one trick. He is on one hand the founder and lead man behind the New York City based psychedelic-funk jam band PEAK. On the other hand, he is a modern Americana singer-songwriter who has been releasing folk infused songs that ponder life, living, and the world around us since the pandemic sent us all home to our living rooms. After quietly releasing multiple batches of his brand of music through Soundcloud and Bandcamp, he has put out his first official solo record, Trouble For Another Day on all major streaming spots and it’s a wonderful, cerebral journey worth taking.
The album includes help from PEAK bassist, Josh T. Carter and also spirited and soulful backups from Bethany Hilliard on several tracks. When COVID had us all sheltering place for months, Jeremy was often streaming living room sessions with his wife Bethany (and occasionally their cat) which seemed a perfect springboard for the solo projects that followed. This full length effort is peppered with the feels of those sessions – the hope, the precariousness, and the wonder of it all. The album has a genuine Americana vibe and at times feels like a car ride through the countryside in the autumn – crunchy leaves blowing through the sunshine and heavy thoughts sprinkled through your mind. Particularly tracks like “American Blue” where this feel is layered over storytelling, carrying a message as deep as the valley pools you encounter on this journey. As someone who was raised on a bit too much Peter, Paul, and Mary and now lives and breathes the likes of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, I am mildly infatuated with this wonderful resurgence of folk songwriting. This music that carries messages from generation to generation. This album is a fantastic example of that in so many ways.
“Swallowed By The Jungle” is another great track from this record with a steady pace and vocals that follow along, rythemic to the beat like a railway. The words are deep and pondering with great lines like, “Life, Love, And Death are a trinity” that kick you right in the soul in these bizzarre and tumultuous times. “Beautiful Reason” is a slower, gentler track with Jeremy’s trademark guitar sound and a lovely, hopeful and positive vibe in the lyrics, proving just how a well written song can light you up as fast as it can send you into a cavern of your own thoughts. Then you have a song like “What Kind of Person Are You Anyway” that ponders the true nature of those around us all the time. This song feels like meeting new people, jiving with them for a while, and sitting down to really wonder who they are. “Are you the dirt that returns to the earth that which is hers, or are you the poison that will cause her to hurt?”
I mean, I feel like I have had these conversations with myself more often than I could recall. I love that about music. It relates to you as much as you relate to it, and this kind of music has always been my favorite for those moments of wonder. As we all wander along through this world that often seems determined to test us as much as possible, so much truth can be found in the words of artists who dares to write out what resides in their soul. Even better are those who have the skill put it to music. That feels to me like the soul of this record. Listen to the song “Too Much of Everything” for even further perspective on that. This song feels like the middle of the pandemic when we had done everything we could think of to get through yet another unprecedented event in our lives that was testing the very fabric of everything we thought we were. We didn’t know what to do anymore, so we did everything we could think of. Now here we are, dealing with the overwhelming reality of it all. It’s remarkably relatable.
I have always liked this storytelling aspect of songwriting and I guess that is what always drew me into the worlds of folk music and it’s many layers. Several years ago, I started to lose my eyesight and was introduced to audiobooks. As a bibliophile, it was a hard transition to have to listen to words instead of being able to hold a book and read them myself because then my mind didn’t get to decide what the narration sounded like. Then I had a realization that it was much like the singer songwriter music that I have always held dear in that these are still the same words, but spoken so that eyes can rest while the mind is still active and running through stories, adventures, and feelings. I realized right away that this is why this music is so wonderful – it’s been telling us stories for so many years, passing them along from generation to generation in the purest aspect of what music truly is. It teaches lessons and allows the mind to wander through situations, contemplating the emotions and outcomes. This is exactly that kind of music. Jeremy simply takes that concept of storytelling and laces it expertly through his brand of guitar driven folky rhythms that still never lose that thing that makes PEAK such a fun band to see. The songs carry you. They carry you along with a groove. Your toes tap, your shoulders move ever so slightly with the song. Though this record is a very different kind of vibe overall, it’s still the product of the same groovy soul – and that is distinctly palpable with every track.
You can find Trouble For Another Day from Jeremy Hilliard everywhere music streams, and I think you absolutely should. There are travels to be had and concepts to ponder within these fantastic songs that I cannot recommend highly enough that you do. Check out the links below:
In my just about 45 years on this planet, I have seen a lot of live music. It’s a passion of mine and one of the things that I really do make an effort in indulge in as much as is financially possible as it generally restores sanity to my overwhelming world. I don’t go to as many big shows these days as I would like to, but I blame that on pricing more than anything. It’s just hard to afford the big ones when things like groceries and utilities seem out of reach in bad months, and that is just the state we are in right now. I will say though that having curated this blog for over a decade has enabled me to squeak my way into a lot of fantastic live shows that have broadened my horizons and truly enriched my life. Music is life for me and is a thing that I need as much as oxygen, sunlight, and human contact. That being said, I just had a live music experience that I am pretty sure has changed me for life – and for me, that is saying a whole lot.
Back in 2012, I somehow got an invite to Death Cab for Cutie at the Brooklyn Museum for a filming of Live from the Artists Den. It was a visually, emotionally, and audibly stirring experience and more or less ruined me for live music for a while. Not much was going to ever live up to that experience for me. I was a fan of the band already, but that experience changed me and made me truly realize how engrossing live music could be, beyond the volume and the song. I have been to a lot of large and small venues to see a variety of music over the years and was not expecting this indie band to change me, but they did.
I already had an emotional attachment to this band. As I was going through trying times around 2007, I was doing a lot of healing to the DCFC album Transatlantacism while simultaneously doing the same to singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and generally swell guy Ben Gibbard’s other project, The Postal Service and their one and only album, Give Up. At the time, I was navigating a divorce and the insecure mourning that comes with it while working through severe depression and finding my way as a single mom working multiple jobs both day and night – and generally just trying to figure out who I was and what the hell I was doing through it all. It was a hard time that I look back on and still feel the pangs of guilt, pain, and anxiety to this day in my stomach. I leaned HARD into music then, and I still do. But at that time, this music was a healing place for me to fall into when I couldn’t stand on my own feet anymore. I was fumbling along in my life, making mistakes and bumping into things. I was dealing with health issues that would not be properly diagnosed for another 9 years (as multiple sclerosis). This music, these songs and their words and melodies, were a space for me to figure things out.
I did a lot of healing to this music. If you are into it, you understand why. The methods of songwriting used bring both meaningful words and emotionally tuned melodies together into something that gets inside you, farther than anything else seems to reach. It can light up some of the darkest corners of you and make you encounter those ghosts that you spend so much time hiding from when really, you should be sitting and chatting with them – and so you do. You do it through these melodies. You do it through these words. In the process, they become very dear to you and you find yourself deeply attached emotionally to these songs.
While this was happening, I was passing a lot of this love of songs onto my son. He was my sidekick in those days, always with me for my poorly executed singalongs and dance parties in the living room or in the car. I didn’t really realize it until he was much older and himself told me. Death Cab and The Postal Service were two sets of songs that we often came to discuss. In one of his music classes in high school, he was teaching himself the key parts to many of these songs and would send me text messages talking about them as he did. We would discuss the progressions and the themes of these albums, the way the songs blended into one another in their transitions. This is why when they announced the tour – these two projects playing these two albums in their entirety – I knew we had to go. My son’s birthday was conveniently close to the tickets going on sale, so I decided to buy them for him as a gift. I used my fandom to its maximum in that moment, having a pre-sale to a pre-sale code and being able to secure two tickets in the Sky Bridge of Madison Square Garden for us. It seemed so far away then, and the anticipation was maddening.
The night came this week.
Much had changed in nine months, as my son was now preparing to movie to Florida from our home in New Jersey to begin commercial flight school. He’s spent the last few years working his tail off with his (also pilot) dad getting his private license while making honor roll, getting a job, and still finding time to play music and skateboard. He’s an unusually amazing person. I know I am his mom, but trust me. This impending move has been a lot for me, as any parent with birds about to leave the nest knows. It doesn’t matter how much we know that it’s the best possible thing – it’s hard and we like them under our wings. It goes without saying that I needed this show to be awesome. This music being so important to the both of us, and it being just a couple weeks before he is to set off on his own adventure.
In the back of my mind was that Artists Den show 9 years ago. That was such an incredible experience with this music that I loved. What would this night be like? These songs are incredible, this band is fantastic, but this is Madison Square Garden. A place I saw my very first concert ever – Nine Inch Nails back in 1994. A place I watched incredible, life changing live shows like Rush, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and Phish (twice), just to name a few. Artists with huge shows, huge songs, and huge followings that made sure you were fully engulfed in the music, the moment, and the experience with huge energy that permeated the entire massive arena.
Then it started.
Death Cab For Cutie came out wearing all black to the expected cheers of the crowd, a blending of people from numerous generations and age brackets. There wasn’t one type of people in the arena. It was a wonderful kaleidoscope of humans who have loved this music for however long and wanted to share in celebrating its 20 years. The moment the first sounds of their song “The New Year” started, the entire arena was awake, present, and ready to feel everything. Ben Gibbard’s voice began the words, “So this is the new year, and I don’t feel any different…” and everyone in the entirety of Madison Square Garden sang with him. We sang every single word, and we didn’t stop for the entire set.
As I said earlier, I have seen a lot of shows in 30 years. I have seen a lot of bands. Live music has been a massive part of my life so I am coming from a specific place when I say these things. Further, I have seen some of the biggest and well-loved bands with the most fanatical, long following fan bases. There are always songs people are singing along with, and there are folks in every crowd who know all the words to everything and make sure to sing along. That’s live music. It’s amazing and captures you with energy. But this – this was something else. This was thousands of people sharing the deep emotional connections they have to these two albums with one another and these artists the best way they know how – their voices. So we ALL sang. We sang loudly. We sang every single word. We were together an extra voice in tandem with those that came from the stage.
When it was time for the Postal Service to begin their set, they came out in all white and began with their song “The District Sleeps Tonight”. Again, as Ben began singing, “Smeared black ink…your palms are sweaty…I’m barely listening…” we all joined him, in unison, and we didn’t stop until the very last song from the album. We were dancing, singing, and breathless by the end – but the singing never stopped. Not for a moment. If there were voices coming from the stage, we were singing with them. It was audible over the microphones. Maybe to some people, it was an annoyance, but to people like me – it was the magic.
Obviously, I was not the only person who did a lot of healing to those two albums. They clearly mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people and we got the chance to celebrate that together. Our show was just one of many on this tour. I cannot imagine the situation to be any different in any other city, though we do like to show our folks a good time in New York City. We want you to know your music is our life, and I think we made that point. There was a moment that I looked from the stage to the seating at the right. That spot always catches a bit of the spotlight so those folks are easy to see. They were just a bustling, dancing batch of humans having the greatest night ever. If you were over there, I felt your vibe all the way up to the Sky Bridge!
Speaking of the Sky Bridge, I want to give quick props where they are due from an accessibility standpoint. I walk with a cane when I know I will be on my feet due to my MS making me a bit wobbly these days. The folks at MSG are STELLAR to folks like me and have made a very easy to navigate venue. Between the escalators, easily accessible elevators, ramps, and just overall layout, I had absolutely no difficulty having a fantastic night. The Garden is truly the greatest arena venue. I always buy Sky Bridge these days because they give me the ability to sit when I need to and still enjoy a great vantage point. I can see the stage no matter what. The seats I chose this particular evening allowed me the space to dance and still feel secure with the wall behind me and counter in front of me. I could easily stabilize myself with one hand. I have not been able to dance at a show in a long time due to this disease and that made this whole evening so much more magical for me. I felt like I got a part of me back that I had lost. At one point, during the Postal Service song “We Will Become Silhouettes”, Gibbard hopped behind the drums and the tempo picked up (as we all knew it would). As that anticipated moment hit and I felt myself lose myself in the music, I realized I had not been able to feel the freedom that comes with dancing to your favorite songs live in at least a year.
The emotion of that moment was overwhelming.
To top it all off, the encore was a gorgeous, acoustic rendition of Iron and Wine‘s version of The Postal Service song “Such Great Heights”, followed by what can easily be called the best cover of Depeche Mode‘s song “Enjoy The Silence” that I have ever heard. This is one of my very favorite songs, and a song I used to use as my ringback (remember those?) back when my son would be at his dad’s for a few days and would call me to say goodnight. For us, in our magical bubble, it was a full circle moment that hit me as hard as anything possibly could. I can’t explain to you how amazing that was. Not to mention, for all the many times I have heard this song covered by numerous artists, it was never done so faithfully and completely. There was not a single synthesized sound in that song that this band did not make sure was represented perfectly.
These two projects of music are made by incredible artists. It was such a wonderful privilege to see them enjoying the experience themselves with smiles and dancing. I was several times reminded of Bruce Springsteen and Courtney Cox in the “Dancing in the Dark” video as I watched Ben Gibbard and Jenny Lewis dancing together on stage – a warm and genuinely comforting sight to this born and raised Jersey girl. It made me smile. I smiled a LOT of Wednesday night, to the point that I remarked to my son on our drive home that my face hurt. That deep cheek cramping pain that comes from your face being frozen in a smile for a long time. That was the night for me. So while that night so many years back at the Brooklyn Museum ruined me for live music from then on and how beautiful and engrossing it could be, this show at Madison Square Garden solidified that for me. It reminded me with blaring signals that music is life. It heals, it enriches, and it brings thousands upon thousands of voices together in celebration of songs that found our souls in whatever state they were – and made them warmer.
Festivals are a wonderful experience that really needs to be lived to be appreciated. This blog has spent many years coming and going to all sorts of fests in the Northeast and enjoying the energy that takes over the site each time one sets down its roots for one. It’s always been a favorite activity for us that we would look forward to every year the moment the first mention of “festival season” was uttered. Unfortunately, being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis put a wrench right in that plan for me and changed my summers as a music journalist forever. It took a few years to get my footing as a disabled festival goer, but I was given the opportunity this year to take that plunge at the first Catbird Music Festival in Bethel, NY. I cannot say enough how much I loved this gorgeous fest.
As someone who has grown up watching the Woodstock film and obsessing over its history and folklore, getting the opportunity to visit a festival like Catbird was an absolute privilege. There was magic in the air that weekend, and it was palpable the moment you drove into the long driveway that leads to Bethel Woods. If you have not attended a show here, I highly recommend it. The grounds are not only beautiful with their rolling hills and expertly designed facility, but it is truly meticulously maintained. The historic home to the original Woodstock festival in 1969, history and preservation are of major importance to this facility and it’s evident in every inch of the property. The entire facility was designed to be a part of the landscape rather than change the landscape to suit its needs. It’s all built into the land and rolls with it.
While I was absolutely confused as to where I was supposed to be parking with my handicapped permit, the staff on hand helping with the parking aspect of the festival were kind and friendly. I didn’t encounter a single staff member while I was there who was anything outside of helpful and smiling. That’s not easy in a crowd of people. I was herded to the right spot and took my place among the other cars with their dangling placards. There was even a shuttle service on hand in the parking lot for handicapped patrons which I did not make use of, but was happy to see regardless. It was conveniently located very near where I was sent to park.
Entering the fest was a breeze. I was issued a wristband with a chip inside so that I could scan in and out of the festival. Being that this is a weekend event, it was made easy for folks to be able to come and go as they needed to with this kind of technology. Bags were checked quickly and thoroughly without issue, and we were in!
There were two stages set up, one at the top field which you see upon entering the concert facility, and the other in the arena itself. I like the main stage/side stage set up as it allows some separation between acts and gives you the opportunity to move through the festival instead of having to keep to one space for the entire weekend in order to enjoy the music. The field around the second stage had hammocks and plenty of space for folks to spread out with blankets if they so desired.
As I walked down towards the main stage, I was loving the fact that this location allows you to really spread out and just BE. There were people sitting on rocks and in the grass and on hills all around the center. Under shady trees there was always a few people gathered. I also loved how many kids there were at Catbird! SO MANY KIDS! Babies all the way up to teens were with their families across the main lawn, playing corn hole or dancing. Some were just sitting together on blankets and enjoying the music. It was a truly lovely vibe across the entire festival that families could come and enjoy this music together and that made for an even more gorgeous weekend. Kids 10 and under were free to enter the festival as long as they were with a ticketed adult – what a wonderful thing for families! There is nothing better than being able to bring your kids to enjoy a festival of wonderful live music, and Catbird made that possible.
Having watch the Woodstock film more times than I have probably watched the backs of my eyelids, it was really cool to see all the camping set up around the festival as well. The rolling hills around the center have not changed too much and it made it easy to spot the different camping set ups around Bethel Woods. The property itself is enormous and they did a wonderful job spreading everything out so that nothing felt cramped. We have covered some festivals with very jumbled camping in the past, so this was a nice thing to see. And really, it was just so pretty!
I do have to say that there is a LOT of walking required to navigate Bethel Woods. As a disabled person who walks with a cane, this was a challenge, but nothing that could not be handled with some patience. Thankfully things were never really crowded anywhere thanks to the expansive facility that it is so for me, it was simply a matter of taking frequent breaks. There are a lot of benches and places to sit around the center which was immensely helpful. There is also a lot of staff around to assist if you had any questions or ran into an unexpected issue. That was a relief!
One thing I saw that I really loved was that people were carrying plastic bags and collecting cans from around the center. At first I was not sure what this was all about, but it was nice to see! On my next walk, I came across the tent for Rock and Recycle. This bunch of fantastic folks encourages attendees to fill a bag with cans for recycling and trades the full bag for a festival shirt! What a great idea! It keeps the discarded cans off the ground and out of the landfills which serves a global purpose while keeping the beautiful grounds impeccable. I hope to see more and more of this!
It goes without saying that the music this whole weekend was amazing with sets by artists like Trey Anstasio Band, Dispatch, Charley Crockett, Amos Lee, Margo Price, Tyler Childers, and so many more. A huge highlight for me was Trampled By Turtles who I had never seen but absolutely LOVED. Their energy was simply infectious and bounced right off the crowd with so much enthusiasm! Clearly I was not alone in that as I saw fans running to see them as their set began! I also loved finally getting to see Band of Horses who I have enjoyed for over a decade. I count “Laredo” as one of my favorite songs and getting to see it done live in such a gorgeous setting was pure magic. I hiked to the top of the lawn and watched them with a crowd of dancing families and it was such a treat.
I also was surprised by how much I enjoyed 49 Winchester over on the Gala Music Stage, for no other reason than that I had never heard them before and was treated to their music upon entering the festival right away! Their live set was a real treat with a lot of emotion and energy – I was truly transported. I have heard them called country, but I feel like their sound is a fresh feel of soulful Americana with classic mountain vibe. I definitely walked away wanting to hear more. Much love to them for a great set!
From the standpoint of accessibility, I have to give Catbird huge props for making sure that ALL fans had an enjoyable and safe experience at their festival all weekend. Entry was easy and moved smoothly, restrooms were clean and very easy to access for everyone regardless of ability, and the grounds were set in such a way that despite the excessive walking required, there was ample space to stop and take a breath if you needed to. At no point in time did I ever feel slighted or not welcome here and that was truly a wonderful feeling. This is a festival that really, genuinely understands what it means to have accessibility and inclusivity for ALL fans. While I did encounter some struggles this weekend with my ability to enjoy things as much as I wanted to (multiple sclerosis is a jerk), that had nothing to do with Catbird or Bethel Woods and they made every possible arrangement for fans like me to be able to enjoy as much as we could. They truly rank highly for me as a welcoming place for any fan.
This was the first Catbird festival and I really hope they will be back at Bethel Woods again next year because I have every intention of being there again. This is a festival for ALL fans, young and old, and I would love to see it be an annual event.
The Catbird Festival will be coming for their first go on the original concert grounds of the historic Woodstock Music and Arts Festival on August 19th and 20th. Now part of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the original grounds have been lovingly kept and maintained for visitors to come and visit for many years. The center itself has it’s own separate concert pavilion, keeping the original concert field as a memorial to the festival that brought hundreds of thousands of music lovers to the fields once owned by Max Yasgur back in 1969. Catbird will be the first festival to bring music and camping back to the grounds.
SCHEDULE: With two stages of music, Catbird is bringing a list of jam and indie artists for all kinds of tastes in a truly special environment. Attendees can check out The Lumineers, Band of Horses, Trampled By Turtles, Dispatch, The Trey Anastasio Band, and Tyler Childers, just to name a few. The fest has released their schedules for both days on their website, and you can check them out right here:
MUSEUM: In addition to music, the festival will allow (for a fee) attendees to stop by the Museum At Bethel Woods to check out the wonderful preservation work on the music and times of the original Woodstock festival. A favorite place of mine, the museum showcases not just the unique weekend at Bethel, NY in 1969, but also the historic significance of that time in history and what was happening all over the country to inspire so many to travel for such an important event. There are interactive exhibits and immersive experiences throughout. It’s a truly lovely place to visit to really feel the spirit of Woodstock.
FOOD AND LODGING: The Catbird Festival offers a variety of food vendors to fit all sorts of tastes with items like tacos, calzones, and seafood. The camping offered this year has several options for festival goers from car camping, tent camping, RV options with and without hookups, and even a “glamping” option for those who need a little extra pampering. The camping passes start at just $99 and are still available at this time. There are some lodging options in the area, but it looks like most of those have been snatched up by attendees as of today. There are a handful of options still taking reservations in nearby Liberty and Monticello last I checked.
TICKETS: Tickets for the Catbird festival are still available with one ($145) and two day ($205) options for General Admission. There are also some Plus, VIP, and Platinum options available as well with extras like access to special lounges, lockers, and a dedicated concierge services. Parking is included in all ticket prices, regardless of tier, though there is a Premier Parking option available starting at $70 which gives access to the lot immediately opposite the entrance.
ACCESSIBILITY: Accessibility features at this festival so far are outstanding. In addition to reserved handicapped parking (as long as you have the necessary state issued placard/plates) and accessible entrances to the festival, there will be an on site Accessibility Services Hub for patrons who might need to stop in for additional assistance or information. There are also accessible camping options and if needed, patrons can reach out to email@example.com after their tickets and passes are secured. In addition, those patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing will see that the schedule specifies which artists will have ASL translation ready to go. Just look for the hands in the bottom right corner of the artist listing.
That’s the preview, folks! A Perfect Mess is BEYOND excited for this festival. We will be on hand at the grounds to provide up to the minute coverage and updates on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Threads, and we cannot wait to bring you all the excitement of the first Catbird Festival!
You don’t stop loving live music just because you become disabled.
This is something I learned from experience, and it was not always a happy experience. In 2021, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had no idea at the time how much it would impact my life as a music fan. Since then, I have lost significant vision (including some color) in my right eye. This has heightened the hearing on my right side. Most prominently, I have also lost some of my balance causing me to require a cane when I know I will be on my feet. This is made worse due to sudden surprise bouts of severe vertigo or the occasional “foot drop” that catches my foot and sends me tumbling. I also struggle to stay on my feet when conditions are hot and need to have someone with me all the time, just in case. This has impacted my ability to enjoy a show the way I always did. I no longer feel safe going alone and difficult conditions are now often impossible ones. Things like stairs and uneven ground, large crowds or too little space can be a dangerous situation for me. This has all opened my eyes to things I wish I had known to be conscious of before – that not all shows and venues are friendly to the disabled community.
I have had other attendees knock me over, use my cane for their balance walking up stairs, or push me into walls or barricades – mostly because there was simply nowhere else to be as space for patrons who needed it was not made available. I have been in situations that I had to climb stairs to get to rest rooms or vendors because elevators were not made available. I have had venues tell me I could not bring someone with me, despite wanting to pay for that person to be there with me. I have also had staff go above and beyond to make sure I was able to get to my ticketed seat, restrooms, and vendors safely and without issue despite obstacles and made sure that I was able to enjoy the show despite my limitations with vision.
I have experienced the very best and the very worst of the NYC area in terms of venues and whether or not they care for their disabled patrons. This goes beyond ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accomodations. Those are quite simply THE LAW and it would shock most people to know how few of those are even taken into account. Before I attend anything now, I have to Google the venue, the event, the area, and everything in between to see what their accessibility options are just to determine whether or not I can even go. When certain bands hold a “lottery” for their tickets, this becomes even more of a challenge. What’s worse – perfectly able bodied fans who claim to be otherwise to get the seats that ARE allotted for people like myself.
As an independent music journalist, it’s my job to bring these things out in the open. Moving forward, A Perfect Mess will be making sure to cover the accessibility and inclusion of all shows and venues where a review takes place. If I am in attendance, you will know what the options and accommodations are. It’s much needed information for the disabled community and the music community as well.
No one should have to stay home because they cannot feel safe at a live show due to disability. I intend to make sure that if there is a way, we will all be there listening to the music, feeling the vibe, and enjoying the show.
You might be staring at your summer calendar and wondering where to head for live music or who you should be looking out for. Well, look no further, friend. We here at A Perfect Mess have got you covered! We are here to let you know which bands to watch out for this summer. We do the work, we listen to the music, we check the flyers, we have you in the know!
The weather has finally warmed up in this strange weather year, and that means Festival Season is upon us again! That can mean only one thing…
Three days with no shower.
Just kidding. You can buy those at Walmart now, friends! What it truly means there is music for days and good times to be had with fantastic friends, cold beverages, and smiles all around! Summer doesn’t just means festivals though. Weekends and weeknights are booked solid at our favorite local venues inside and out. There are a ton of great shows happening. Let’s take a look at the bands you should be checking out while you are out there this summer!
One Time Weekend:
The band with the mantra, “We groove – You move.” should need little introduction. We caught these guys at a festival that shall not be named in New York a bunch of years back and they blew us away. Still very new, they opened the show so a lot of people missed them, which was a shame because they are fantastic. Their debut full length album, ‘Weekend at the Circus’, is a spinning and dancing funk rock explosion with every song giving you a different taste of what this band is capable of. Now they have a new full length called ‘Fire It Up’ bringing equally tasty “shred-funk” jams peppered with well written harmonies and killer solos. On top of that, they do a killer live show. We have delighted in watching them get bigger and bigger in the years since that first time we caught them, and this summer they are all over the place. Find them at Peach Fest in Scranton, PA (6.29 – 7.02), FarmJammaLama in Brookville, PA (7.8), Hill Country in New York City for a Phish After Party (7.29), Asbury Jams in Asbury Park, NJ (8.03), and many more! Check out their website www.onetimeweekend.com for more dates! Get out and catch them!
PEAK is a band I was introduced to via an assignment from The Jamwich way back in 2018! We have been keeping you all updated on the goings on with that outstanding New York City band for a few years now. Psychedelic Indie Funk with killer jams that send crowds spinning while giving thoughtful lyrics you can hang along with makes PEAK a late-night dance fuel band not to be missed when you are out and about this summer. They are a perfect blend of jamtronica and moody, illuminated indie tied together with stellar, sky high jams. The band’s debut full length Electric Bouquet gave everyone a glimpse into where guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Hilliard’s mind wanders to. Somewhere between catchy rock vibes and cool jam grooves. Followed up with the full length album, ‘Choppy Water’, and PEAK brings you into a whole other world told through storytelling and pure rock, folk, and jam vibes. The band fills out with keymaster Johnny Young, Bassist Josh Carter, and drummer Kito Bovenschulte. The band has been all over the Northeast this year and last, adding dates all the time. You can catch them at Funk N Waffles in Syracuse, NY (7.14) and the fantastic Yasgur Road Reunion in Bethel NY (8.12). Keep an eye to their website for always added live dates at www.peaktheband.com. They are a truly outstanding live band!
Good golly, these guys! Another band I reviewed a bunch of years back for The Jamwich and I have had them on my radar ever since. A band that never takes themselves too seriously but absolutely could, if they chose to! I am so glad they don’t. They bill themselves as having four studio albums, viral cat videos, and being Mom and Dad approved. A five piece band from Grand Rapids, MI, these guys bring a sound that is bit of funk, a lot of rock, and “a big ol pile of saxophone” to their live shows and I am here for it. They have been out there doing their thing since their beginning back in 2012 and it’s so awesome to see them all over the dang place this summer. Their show dates are up and rolling with Summerfest in Milwaukie, WI (6.30), Smiling Acres Music Festival in Trufant, MI (7.1), Shagbark Music Festival in Alaska, MI (8.4-8.5), and a ton more. Keep up with this fantastic band over at their website, www.desmondjonesband.com and get out to see them where you can!
This is legit a band that I was not sure if I could include here, except that it has jam scene players and I have seen them on festivals I was at and OK SO WHAT – they are freaking AMAZING. I slept on this band for too long. Referred to on their website as a “six headed synthwave beast”, this band is comprised of stellar players who were friends and decided they really liked making people dance. So they do! Their vocalist Kanica Moore has one of the most positively uplifting voices I have ever heard. Their funky, blast off energy is everything you ever wanted shooting through every inch of your body. I cannot fathom sitting still at one of their live shows. Doom Flamingo’s most recent full length album, Peaches and Bobbi, is stuck on my playlist and its not moving. Their live shows are stacked and you can catch them out at Resonance Music and Arts Festival in Garrettsville, OH (7.1), 4848 Festival in Snowshoe, VW (7.14), Cobblestone Live Music and Arts Festival in Buffalo, NY (7.15), and so many more. Head on over to their website at www.doomflamingo.com to keep up with the band and their dates!
Dogs in a Pile
“Cat on a tin roof, dogs in a pile, nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.” A nod to The Dead from their song ‘He’s Gone‘. I love these guys already. From my home state of New Jersey, but down south in the legendary Asbury Park where so much fantastic music was born, these guys have been popping up on festival lineups for a few years now and I dare say I have not gotten out to see them enough. Their sound is a funky take on rock, psychedelica, and a swirling of jazz that brings you on an exciting and eclectic adventure and really – what is better than that? Their most recent full length album, ‘Bloom‘, is that eclectic mix of reggae beats, funky bass lines, dance feels, throwback vibes, and just plain old good jam grooves. I’m a recent listener and I have to say, I might be joining that Dog Pile I keep hearing about. You can get out and check these guys at the Peach Music Festival in Scranton, PA (6.30), The Rye Bread Music and Arts Festival in Schaghticoke, NY (7.27-7.29) Catskill Mountain Jubilee in East Durham, NY (8.10), and a TON more. Head on over to their website for more dates and more on the band at www.dogsinapileofficial.com!
This is HARDLY a complete list. There is a ton of great music happening right now and you just need to put your ear out there and give a listen! We are always here to take suggestions so if you know something great that is happening, give us a shout in the comments or send an email! As always, see you out there!
As a member of Generation X, I grew up looking backwards to the sixties with a certain level of respect that grew from the concept of protest music. People were working through so many social, civil, and environmental rights issues simultaneously and this important music was a means to gather, inform, and bridge the gaps between one another through awareness and working together. Nowadays, I look with chagrin and general disappointment at the modern music scenes and how much they are lacking in this style and purpose in their writing. Where is the music that tells a story of struggle to inform? Where is music that brings together activists for the same causes? It’s not as if we are without similar struggles. The fires are quite literally raging right now, and we need unity more than ever.
Just as I am about to give up on today’s music being truly socially aware, The Prizefighters have entered the chat.
This Minnesota ska and rocksteady band has been providing the US and abroad with a seemingly effortless throwback sound for well over a decade now. Their skillful use of traditional beats and ska groove creates a smooth and still outstandingly relevant feel that gives you hooks to sing and beats with which to shake what you were given. On top of all of that, they are writing songs with social relevance and stories of the fights we are embroiled in here in America. Their newest release, ‘Punch Up’, is no exception. The album is peppered with songs about the struggle to maintain our environment, our rights, our safety, and humanity. It’s a breath of fresh air from the stagnant music industry’s insistence on love stories and vapid, stale air. Instead, The Prizefighters have injected a sound of hope and fight – something we desperately need.
This is not new territory for the Prizefighters, but it was something they put genuine thought into for Punch Up. Sax man in the band Courtney Klos states, “While writing and recording the songs that would eventually comprise the album, we found ourselves discussing the origins of punk rock in the UK. Bands in that scene made history by calling out the Queen during her Jubilee, taking shots at corrupt institutions of power. At its core, it was a movement of punching up and it quickly spawned the resurgence and birth of many music-related subcultures: goth, mod revival, 2 Tone, skinhead revival, new wave, etc. All of it was possible because a movement dared to punch up the ruling hierarchy of society. The songs on this album were born from the same philosophy.”
The record blasts off with the track ‘Kick The Can’, a punchy and fun song with traditional ska grooves while discussing the frustrating devastation we bring on our enviroment. It was written as a call-to-arms in reaction to the hopelessness of our current climate crisis, in addition to the accompanying bureaucratic inaction that seems to have it constantly on fire. While pointing out how disappointing this all is, it brings with it a hopefully message of change. It’s an accurate depiction of the mindset of our nation as we watch reservoirs dry up, wildfires rage, and floods take lives and countless amounts of personal and property damage while our elected officials worry more about who’s bathroom someone might use and the ever present love affair with automatic weapons. Frustrated doesn’t begin to cut it, but this song brings with it an upbeat tempo of hope. We can’t make a change without raising our voices, and thankfully, The Prizefighters are on the scene to give us the blueprints with something awesome to sing along with.
“We can’t just keep our goal posts moving further down the line…”
“We are pound foolish and penny wise, hoarding wealth while the earth dies…”
“It doesn’t matter what we should have done then, it only matters what we’re gonna do now…”
It’s truly a rally cry – we need to fix things before it’s too late.
The band maintains this effort throughout the entire record, visiting with other socially and politically important topics like gun violence in ‘Think and Pray’. The song gives you a body-moving beat while discussing the tragic trend of “thoughts and prayers” every time the peace is pierced with the horrors of mass shootings here in the United States. While pointing out how such trite response doesn’t do anything to cure the violence, the song also reminds us that change can come from genuine positivity. It’s a reminder that we need to put that positive out to the universe if we want that positive back in return. The song is groove heavy and layered with steady beats and crisp, clean horn work in the Prizefighter’s signature way.
This same groove carries to other songs on the record like ‘Company Time’ which tells of how we need to look to the legends before us for their lessons and inspiration. They make mention of artists like Woody Guthrie and Bob Marley who both sang of freedom and human rights, especially those for workers. The entire album is very well put together sound-wise with a fantastic blend of rocksteady charm and singable lyrics to inspire.
On the talent end, The Prizefighters have not only put out music that keeps the traditional sounds of Jamaica alive and well, but they have also backed the legends that helped create that sound on numerous occasions. Names like Stranger Cole, Derrick Morgan, Charlie Organaire, Roy & Yvonne, just to name a few. In addition, they continue to play out on the regular with bands like Hepcat and the Slackers who are still out there keeping that scene alive. The band is maintained with a blend of outstanding songwriting and genuine talent that culminates in a solid live show to back it all up.
The new album “Punch Up” is available now on vinyl LP, CD and digital streaming platforms everywhere. You can keep up with The Prizefighters over at their website – www.theprizefighters.net
Hey friends, get ready to hit the dance floor! There is another track from Minnesota’s stellar ska preservationists, the Prizefighters, just about to hit the public domain on May 19th. I can’t get enough of the good protest energy these folks put forth with this upcoming album of theirs, and this track is no less a statement to be made, but listen closely because it’s not entirely what you think!
Think and Pray, the next song released from the band’s up and coming full length record Punch Up, is a body-moving, groove heavy message of hope that positivity can change the world around you. It’s also a cool dig at all the “thoughts and prayers” offered into nothingness every time something tragic happens in our country – usually the result of senseless gun violence. This smart dual meaning is brilliantly laid out among the hearty dancing tone of traditional ska energy, always done so well by the Prizefighters. Their upbeat throwback vibe, laced with words that truly mean something, is a refreshing and welcome addition to the world. I am a fan of telling folks that you get back the energy you put out to the universe, and this song reminds us that while simple phrases in tragedy can be trite, real change can be effected by true positivity. That is something we can desperately use these days as the younger among us are doing their best to try to change our world for the better. I cannot wait for this record to hit. What a fantastic soundtrack to these times!
Check out Think and Pray on all streaming services!
You can get the full length record Punch Up when it releases on June 9th on vinyl, CD, and digital. The band’s album release show, which is sure to be a blast, will be going down at the Turf Club in St. Paul, MN on June 14th. If you can get yourself there, get those tickets here!