“This Vanishing,” the first print poetry collection by Dave Caserio, has recently been released by CW books, an imprint of Word Tech. This company also published Montana poet laureate Tami Haaland’s latest book. Watch for future offerings of the work of Billings-area poets from this press.
Billings residents with a taste for poetry already know Dave Caserio as one of the most recognizable talents in south-central Montana. His multi-art performances featuring on-the-spot painting, interpretive dance and outstanding musicians such as bassist Parker Brown and guitarist Alex Nauman have been featured at the Billings Fringe Festival, Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.’s Garage Pub, Sacrifice Cliff Theatre, NOVA Center for the Performing Arts, and the Babcock Theater.
Dave has also worked with cancer patients at Billings Clinic, focusing on the restorative power of words. He teaches poetry with the Big Sky Writing Workshops, has offered Humanities Montana presentations throughout the state, and will be a featured speaker farther afield this year at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey.
Drawing on the experience gathered from his years in the Seattle slam poetry scene, Dave has also served as a guiding spirit and mentor for young artists and writers for whom downtown Billings is home base. Two such writers, Pete Tolton and James Dean Hickman, whose ventures include not only Montana Slam but Noise & Color, contributed their own considerable talents to “This Vanishing’s” design and layout.
As anyone who has seen him perform can attest, poetic music and rhythm are extremely important in Caserio’s work. One can hear rhythmic echoes ranging from “Beowulf” to “Leaves of Grass” in these poems. It is also evident that Caserio has mastered the subtle modulation of late 20th century free verse. “Ghost Eye,” for example, is rich with alliteration and assonance:
Even the neighbors
Back in Warrington
Waited with their tea leaves.
I asked Caserio how studying poetry with Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell at New York University had influenced his work. He notes that these meticulous craftspeople brought to his attention different aspects of the poet’s art.
From Kinnell, he learned the “weight and texture of vowels and consonants.” Since Dave had been working as a mime, this revitalization of language “was heady stuff to me then and it remains so, even now.”
Olds, in addition to her own sense of sound, focused on concrete detail and the power of ordinary life, the animated discourse of families, and, on a larger scale, the arguments of politics and social criticism. She also introduced him to the healing capacity of poetry, which he cultivates today in his work with cancer patients.
The accents and rhythms of jazz are present in many poems, along with an appropriate measure of urban dissonance. But Caserio is also capable of achieving a quieter pastoral music in poems such as “Vermont Etiology,” which begins with a passage recalling the work of James Wright and, especially, Robert Bly:
Since first dark
Only the snow has come
And what would be sound
Is taken back into the body
Like an oar lifted from water
In a poem by Bly or Wright, such atmospheric lines generally lead to surrealistic “deep imagery.” Caserio offers such a moment of heightened consciousness, but, true to the gritty aesthetic of the Chicago-born poet, weaves the illumination into a tough urban context:
Around blunted corners and back-alley ways,
Through quiet gates of snow,
Through half-covered broken glass
And the rusted time of automobiles
The poem may offer something like the kind of meditative subjective perception typical of Bly or Wright, but it will not leave anyone, not even “the slow, the lame, the deemed impure,” behind. The descriptive catalog of undesirables and encompassing generosity of spirit recall one of Caserio’s Humanities Montana presentation subjects, Walt Whitman.
Readers familiar with Caserio’s performance pieces will recognize some of these poems.
Seeing these familiar works in print complements the experience of the live performances. After reading “William Cumbry Moss,” for example, I have a more complete understanding of one of Caserio’s best-known characters, a homeless schizophrenic. Details of Moss’s background, his apparent involvement in the sex trade, for example, can be more clearly seen in the written poem, and his descent into his current state, though presented in broad strokes, is rendered clear.
The poem in print offers a counterpoint to Caserio’s live interpretation of the character. It’s almost like reading a brief, impressionistic autobiography — the poem is in first person from the character’s point of view — as opposed to unexpectedly encountering Moss in the subway tunnels and alleys he haunts.
The complexities of his character, his intelligent but catch-as-catch-can scientific bent (“I was / Reading about brains”), and his devotion to “St Dorotheus” are perhaps more accessible in the printed form. If you live in Billings and know this character from Dave’s performances, prepare to meet him in a new, more coherent if perhaps less immediate way.
As a reader, I’m not always comfortable with Caserio’s over-the-top approach to poetry. But the theatrical impulse is no stranger to the art, and, in American poetry in particular, represents a distinguished tradition. Dave’s poetic voice blends an American sense of expansive ego with a poetic vulnerability that somehow both intensifies and ameliorates the potential for self-indulgence. One thinks of Walt Whitman balancing the tender sensibility of “Live Oak with Moss” and his acceptance of all human frailties in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” against the breathtaking audacity of “Song of Myself.”
Perhaps this is what Caserio means when he cites “Whitman’s consciousness to hold the vertical interior in undistracted balance with the immense variety of the horizontal exterior.” A related blend of self-deprecating humor and self-expansion can be seen in the post-World War II work of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, even Sylvia Plath. I hear an echo of Kerouac, for example, in Moss’s reaction to being labeled a “schizophrenic catatonic amnesiac / And a drunk. Hell, I knew that” as well as in the more obvious Kerouac-esque jazz evocation in “My Father Used to Stay Up Nights.”
But, as shown by the epigraphs introducing each of the book’s six sections, the volume’s influences are not exclusively American. Much of Caserio’s sense of sound comes from the Old World: Anglo-Saxon ballads, Beowulf (another of his Humanities Montana subjects), Chaucer, Irish poetry.
Caserio’s idiosyncratic American is not some neo-Adam created afresh. As with Kerouac and William Carlos Williams, Caserio’s ear is attuned to the wealth of urban and immigrant speech rhythms, a focus that dates back to his work with Kinnell.
During his years at NYU, says Caserio, “I began to carry cloth- bound artist blank sketchbooks (I dislike lines on a page) with me everywhere I went, on subways, on buses, on trains, or while walking the streets of Manhattan or Brooklyn, to record the varied voices, stories and rhythms of speech that continuously filled the air in snatches and phrases and sometimes whole soliloquies.”
Caserio matches these voices to the aspirations of his motley characters and personae, as well, perhaps, as to aspects of his own family history and personal experience.
When asked how, after stints in Chicago, New York, and Seattle, he came to live in Billings, Dave recalls his childhood reading and his grandfather’s glowing memories of a sojourn in Butte.
“Lewis and Clark and their journey through Montana wound up my imagination,” he says. “I remember pestering my father that he should quit his nice-paying blue-collar job and move the lot of us out to Montana. I bugged him about it on a consistent basis and I used my grandfather’s claims to try to bolster my argument.”
Dave’s story, and the story of American westering in general, resonates with a desire that may be as old as humanity itself, the urge to transcend the limitations placed on our individual lives while somehow retaining our familiar identity in the process, to start anew while not forgetting where we’ve been.
This theme is intimated in the collection’s title and explored in the first poem. The only poem in Section One, “Forensic Love” telescopes from “2098” backward into prehistory, to “Lucy from Olduvai Gorge” (The Lucy fossil was actually found not at Olduvai but at Hadar in Ethiopia, but who can resist the sound play of place and personal names?). The poem returns to the future with the Whitman-flavored observation that “those who discover me / Will come to know what fragrance lies unbloomed.”
But Caserio’s vision is generally darker and more ironic than Whitman’s, with roots sunk deep in the 20th century’s peculiar aura of omnipresent nightmare. In the formative decades of a new century, Dave’s poems recall the chaos of the last one.
These poems inhabit a dangerous world. Like it or not, they tell us, the future may lead inevitably to Gallipoli, to a William Cumbry Moss demi-world, or simply to the “nameless coffin” of “Forensic Love.” Better get used to such uncertainty and learn to live with it, Dave Caserio tells us in “This Vanishing.” Better yet, learn to celebrate it.
Bernard Quetchenbach teaches English at MSU Billings.
Last Updated on Thursday, 23 October 2014 14:38
MISSOULA – Bamboo fly-fishing rods, heavy-duty man baskets, a family Chai recipe, gourmet chocolates and a new energy bar made from Montana-raised beef are the subjects of a University of Montana student-produced television program featuring Montana-based businesses.
“Business: Made in Montana” profiles companies that create products in Big Sky Country and do business around the state, the country and the world. The new program will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, on MontanaPBS and will broadcast again at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 26 and at 1 a.m. Monday, Oct. 27. This episode introduces viewers to Tom Morgan Rodsmiths in Manhattan, Lifting Technologies Inc. in Missoula, Tipu’s Chai in Polson, Posh Chocolat in Missoula and Omnibar in Ovando.
Producers follow the waters of the Madison River to a Manhattan company that aims for perfection when creating finely crafted bamboo fly rods. Tom Morgan and his wife, Gerri, have owned and operated Tom Morgan Rodsmiths since 1996.
Man-basket manufacturing company, Lifting Technologies in Missoula, is a local family business with an international market.
After successfully running an Indian restaurant in Missoula, Tipu’s Chai owner Bipin Patel moved his business to Polson with hopes of spreading his grandmother’s authentic chai tea recipe around the country.
Posh Chocolat, a Missoula chocolate company, celebrates nearly a decade of making delectable treats for its customers and has even bigger plans for the future.
Omnibar is a new Montana-made energy bar for extreme athletes. Owner Cooper Burchenal uses beef from his family ranch near Ovando to create a savory alternative for a growing market.
Students at UM’s School of Journalism and Department of Radio-TV produced the program during spring semester 2014. Senior journalism student Sam Waldorf hosts the program. Over a span of 21 years, “Business: Made in Montana” has featured nearly 200 different businesses.
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:18
When Evan Weiss looks at “Intersections,” his latest album under the band name Into It. Over It., it takes him back in an important respect to when he first wrote and recorded his own music. He recaptured something he hadn’t felt since that first album, the 2009 release “52 Weeks.”
“It was more about writing, doing what came naturally,” Weiss said of his debut project in a recent phone interview. “I like chances and risks, which is most of what ’52 Weeks’ was about was taking risks and trying new things and not being afraid to experiment. That was the big thing about ‘Intersections’ was kind of being fearless in the writing and the recording process, which brought me back awhile. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that attitude going into a recording session.”
That first album was an ambitious endeavor. Weiss challenged himself to write a new song each week over the course of an entire year. The songs were released one at a time online and then compiled on the two-disc “52 Weeks” album at the end of that period.
“Intersections” didn’t require him to create anywhere near that much material. But Weiss went into the new album determined to change up some of his methods and not second guess the decisions he made as the songs were written and the album was recorded.
One of the ideas that put a twist on “Intersections” was to put some limits on how songs were written and recorded. Another was to not use a pick on the guitar parts, a decision that was designed to serve a larger goal for “Intersections.”
He also had drummer Nick Wakim scale back his kit by removing certain cymbals and drums.There wasn’t any grand scheme behind such decisions. Not using a pick, for instance, happened after Weiss realized the approach might serve a larger goal for “Intersections.”
“Basically the idea came from writing the first song (“A Pair of Matching Taxi Rides”) and wanting the album to sound, to have a tonality and a feel to it,” he said. “We wrote the first song that way and it was kind of like oh, let’s ride this and create something that sounds like a complete thought, 12 songs and a complete thought. That was really where that came from.”
What also helped shape the sound of “Intersections” was Weiss’ choice of Brian Deck as producer.
In particular, Weiss wanted more of a raw, organic sound than he had on his second album, “Proper,” and Deck’s approach to recording suited that goal.
“I just wanted to make something that was not artificial, that wasn’t made by a computer, or not necessarily made by a computer, but influenced by that,” Weiss said. “I think Brian is a great engineer for that kind of music. He doesn’t like f***ing around with a computer. He just wants to record a band being a band or record a musician being a musician. I just wanted it to sound like a real band playing in a room. That was the main goal.”
Songs such as “Spinning Thread,” “New North-Side Air,” “Favor and Fiction” and “Upstate Blues,” set the tone with their mid-tempo, but edgy sound. The songs rock, thanks to the assertive attack of drummer Wakim and the serrated electric guitar tones that Weiss favors, but the tempos are deliberate and Weiss’ graceful vocals soften the overall feel of the tunes. A couple of ballads (“The Shaking of Leaves” and “A Curse Worth Believing”) and the occasional song that slightly amps up energy (“Spatial Exploration”) bring nice variety to “Intersections.”
Overall, “Intersections” finds Weiss showing he has the talent to build a lasting career.
Ironically, a music career wasn’t Weiss’ original plan. In fact, he expected “52 Weeks” to be a one-off project when he started writing and posting the songs that eventually were collected on the two-CD set.
“Essentially ’52 Weeks’ came out and I was done with it. This was when it was still for free online,” Weiss said. “Then a label called No Sleep released it on CD. So when we released it on CD, it was like I guess I should play some shows to sell these CDs. It’s like (they) put some money into this. I should put some time into it and play some of these songs if people want to hear them. Then I got asked to do a couple of short tours and came home from one of them and didn’t have a job anymore.
“It was kind of like well, if I don’t go for it (a music career) now, I’m never going to get to go for it, ever,” he said.
So Weiss moved ahead to make 2011’s “Proper,” his first conventional album, and then set his sights on “Intersections.”
He has assembled a four-piece band to tour in support of “Intersections.” This should enable Weiss to bring his newest material to life on stage - not that his set will be limited to that material.
“The band has pretty much gone out of its way to learn a catalog of roughly 40 songs,” Weiss said. “So we’re doing a rotating set of 20 every single night. The set probably will not be the same at any show ... . We’ve been trying to do a really good balance of all of the material.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:13
The Autumn ArtWalk in downtown Billings includes nearly 30 galleries, museums and studios in the downtown Billings area. ArtWalk, now in its 20th season, goes from 5-9 p.m. Friday.
Many venues offer complimentary food and refreshments. Maps are available at all participating sites and at www.artwalkbillings.com.
ArtWalkers are invited to an open house at the offices of the Downtown Billings Association, 2815 Second Ave. N., to meet new ArtWalk President Virginia Bryan, from 3-5 p.m. on the afternoon of the Autumn ArtWalk. Light food and refreshments will be served.
Among the highlights on Friday:
• Rachel Jones’ whimsical images on reclaimed wood and canvas are on exhibit at the Anderson Art Studio and Gallery. Laura Marie Anderson’s work will also be featured.
• Selected works from Billings artist Stephen Haraden on display at Good Earth Market include colorful, sensual images that reflect his appreciation of the outdoors developed during boyhood years living in several national parks. Billings poet David Caserio signs copies of his new book, “The Vanishing.”
• The featured show at Big Sky Blue Gallery is “The Wonders of This Land” with featured artists Lori Blaylock, Maggie Webber and Dana Zier. Ms. Blaylock works primarily in drawing and jewelry, and delights in finding “beauty in the details.” Webber is a free-lance photographer; Zier is a plein air landscape artist who “finds light and truth in many subjects.”
• At the Billings Open Studio, Kira Fercho curates a three-artist show, “Imaginarium,” that includes her abstract impressionism pieces and others by Kevin Rose and Louis Habeck that range from landscapes to the whimsical and melancholy. Sculptor Brenna Paulson’s “bronze expressionism” series features bronze castings in abstract form with a variety of textures and patinas. A mysterious photography show, “Portraits of Billings,” is a collaboration by Tony Anderson, Jessie Blake, Jenna Martin, Casey Page and Bryce Turcotte. Acoustic music by Grant Jones and Adam Copeland accompanies the three shows.
• The Catherine Louisa Gallery features “Alterations” by Jean Albus, who was featured recently in the Big Sky Journal Arts issue. Jean’s photo assemblages merge her love of the Eastern Montana landscape with artifacts that surround her.
• At the Chinatown Art Gallery, Alaina Buffalo Spirit, a Northern Cheyenne artist from Colstrip, shows paintings on ledger art paper that honor artists from past centuries who documented nomadic Cheyenne life. Sara Ness, who graduates from MSU Billings next spring, has her first gallery showing.
• Clark Marten Photography shows “Real or Fake: Camera Takes Landscape Art to Unreal Levels,” which includes photographs by Clark Marten using a rare, specialty camera. Marten captures details and color layers that are three times as sharp those captured by a 35mm camera.
• Renata Haidle’s photographs of Paris are on display at CTA Architects Engineers. The exhibit, entitled “A Moveable Feast,” draws inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s quote, which suggests that an extended stay in Paris will stay with you for the rest of your life.
• Downtown Billings Alliance welcomes John Stout of Sheridan, Wyo., for his second show in Billings. Stout, a log home builder, works in watercolors and landscapes. He has taught art classes at Sheridan College and has been a guest artist at MSU Billings.
• Gallery Interiors hosts several artists, including Bob Barlow, Joseph Booth, Dennis Boyd, Barbara Butler, Jessica Durnell Smith, Greg Eislein, Loren Entz, John Felten, Connie Herberg, Jim LeBar, James Poulson, Jeff Schaezle, Kevin Showell, C. David Swanson, Tom Temple, Robert Tompkins, Joseph Trakimas and Susie Van Pelt. James Poulson provides guitar music.
• Gallery Nine shows a selection of paintings of interior spaces and photographs of exterior spaces by Connie Dillon, artistic wood boxes by John Felten and handmade journals by Linds Sanders.
• Karen Johnson is the featured artist at Global Village. Johnson’s oil paintings of western landscapes include Yellowstone and Teton National Parks and the Mediterranean region.
• Pug Mahon’s Autumn Art competition opens in its walkway behind the bar and eatery. Twelve outdoor mural spaces are available to artists on a first-come, first-served basis. Murals must be completed by Oct. 31, with public viewing and voting in November. Call Bill “Mac” McIntyre at 259-4190 to secure a mural space.
• The Jason Jam Gallery shows “Monsters and Stuff,” with subjects ranging from monsters to pumpkins. Mr. Jam’s work is created in diverse styles, including cartooning, plein air and illustrations.
• “Maybe It’s the Moon” is showing at the two Jens Gallery & Design locations through October. The duo galleries feature pastel paintings by Libby George, drawings by Gerald Kindsfather, and photography by Connie Jens and Gerald Kindsfather. Also featured are works by Kenny Alefteras, Jenny Moller, and Sue LaFountain.
• “Falling into Fall” at Kennedy’s Stained Glass opens with new pieces that bring autumn colors into the studio. A preview of the studio’s annual Christmas ornament is featured.
• Limber Tree Yoga Studio students become artists during a gentle flow yoga class. Wearing their paint clothes, yoginis move through various poses and breathwork while painting with hands and feet. Supplies are $40. Yoga painting is from 6-8 p.m.
• Mothers and Daughters is the primary theme of the exhibit at McCormick Cafe for the Autumn ArtWalk. Jean Mehlhaff and her daughter, Linda Mehlhaff, show watercolors, marker on paper, graphic art and collages. Photographs are shown by Peggy Schroeder-Adams and her daughter, Grace Adams, and their friend, Jacquie Prittson Kittson.
• At the Northern Hotel, Steven Kuennen and Robin Earles showcase linoleum press prints and provide information about upcoming Buffalo Art Press linoleum block workshops (www.buffaloartpress.com). Other artists and their work include pottery by Cassey Crafton Kramer and jewelry designs with gemstones by Cindy Lou Smith.
• “Contemporary Art for the Modern World,” at Sandstone Gallery features a new series by Lana Bittner in which she uses an ink alcohol technique in her abstract watercolors. Mary Knapp’s fused glass pieces are combined with metal and range from jewelry to wall pieces to furniture. Heather Connolly’s works in mixed media are also part of the show.
• It’s time to see what’s been cut up and what’s survived for the Autumn ArtWalk at the Stephen Haraden Studio. Mr. Haraden exhibits new collages created from cut pieces extracted from his previous paintings. A “few old favorites” from his body of work also be shown.
• At susang, Susan Germer’s new creations for the Autumn ArtWalk include fine silver jewelry, watercolor note cards, pastels, bead embroidery and framed photography.
• Toucan Gallery’s show features Red Lodge artist David Vogel and his artful trout. While known primarily as a painter, Vogel’s trout, all representing species indigenous to Montana, are created from bended, stamped, welded and torched steel.
• Exhibitions on display at the Yellowstone Art Museum include “The Art of the Brick,” “T.L. Solien: Toward the Setting Sun” and “Boundless Visions.” Work by Hardin sixth-grade students are in the Young Artists Gallery. Wes Urbaniak plays live music.
• Tony Anderson of Big News Photography showcases his latest series “Dia de los Muertos” at Underground Culture Krew. Regular gallery artists include Crystal Rieker; photographers Kristin Rude, Jenna Martin and Ellen Kuntz; glass artist Gloria Mang; pottery by Tina Jensen; and five local graffiti artists.
• A vintage jewelry sale from private collections of museum patrons celebrates the return of the High Plains Women’s Museum to the ArtWalk lineup. Also displayed are millinery classics from the hat collection of Lorraine Marsh and vintage wedding dresses.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 October 2014 16:13
By ALAN SCULLEY - Last Word Features
Wanted: A musician to join established band that tours worldwide and has released has six previous studio albums to play banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, guitar and keyboards. No prior experience playing those instruments required.
The Dropkick Murphys didn’t actually place an ad like that when multi-instrumentalist Marc Orrell left the group in 2008. But the musician who got the gig, Jeff DaRosa, would have met those requirements.
A bassist by trade, DaRosa, aside from guitar, had never played any of those instruments when he was contacted by Dropkick Murphys guitarist James Lynch about filling the vacancy in the band lineup.
“I was coming off of a plane checking my messages from my last tour and I had a message from James Lynch, the guitar player,” said DaRosa in a recent phone interview. “He just said I don’t know if you want to learn any crazy instruments or not, but if you do, the job’s open.”
DaRosa accepted the offer.
“He (Lynch) gave me a bunch of CDs and a banjo, a mandolin, bouzouki and everything else, and I sat in my bedroom for about a month and just woodshedded, practiced,” DaRosa said.
“That was the only concern,” he said. “Can you learn these wacky instruments? I wouldn’t say I’m amazing at any of them, but I can do it.”
The Dropkick Murphys were willing to take a chance on DaRosa because he had a history with the Boston-based Irish-accented rockers.
He had been friends with Lynch since they were kids, and DaRosa’s former band, the Exit, had toured with the Dropkick Murphys and was signed to the record label own by Dropkick Murphys bassist and founding member Ken Casey.
“I’m old friends with a bunch of the guys in the band,” DaRosa said. “So they didn’t have to look too far to find me.”
DaRosa joined the band in time to contribute to the writing and recording of the seventh Dropkick Murphys studio album, 2011’s “Going Out In Style.” That album turned out to be something of a landmark release for the group.
It became the Dropkick Murphys’ highest charting CD when it debuted at No. 6 on “Billboard” magazine’s album chart. It was also arguably the group’s most ambitious album to date in that it was a full-on concept record.
“Going Out In Style” told the story of a fictional Irish immigrant Cornelius Larkin, as the songs looked back on the character’s lineage and life in his new homeland of the United States.
In addition to the songs, the album’s liner notes included a short story about Larkin’s life, which was written author Michael Patrick MacDonald.
“We didn’t set out to write a concept album, actually,” DaRosa said. “The concept, as we were looking at the list of songs, it kind of came out to us and we were talking about James Lynch’s grandfather, who was Cornelius Lynch, and his story of coming to America. We kind of took from our families’ histories and kind of made a fictional concept around it.”
“Going Out in Style” was well received critically and helped continue the gradual growth in popularity that has characterized the Dropkick Murphys’ 18-year career.
The band was formed in 1996, and after self-releasing a 1997 EP, “Boys in the Docks,” got signed to Hellcat Records (the label led by Tim Armstrong of Rancid), which put out the band’s first full-length CD, “Do or Die,” in 1998.
The next CD, 1999’s “The Gang’s All Here” marked the debut of lead singer Al Barr (who replaced Mike McColgan) and saw the group solidifying its trademark brand of rollicking and Irish and punk-rooted rock.
The band’s national profile has grown steadily over the subsequent albums, while the Dropkick Murphys have become hugely popular in the band’s hometown of Boston. The city has been celebrated in a number of the group’s songs, most notably “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” which was featured in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning film, “The Departed” and is currently used (in an acoustic version) as the theme song of the TNT drama “Rizzoli & Isles.”
The group’s local hero status became blatantly apparent in summer 2011, when the Dropkick Murphys played two shows at Boston’s Fenway Park. An 18-song live album from those shows was included in the deluxe edition of “Going Out In Style” when it was released this past March.
“It was amazing,” DaRosa said of the Fenway experience. “We did two shows there and just to say you walked on the grass of Fenway is one thing. But to be able to say you played there, the two nights were great. We had the (Mighty Mighty) Bosstones with us, and just walking on the Green Monster down to play and the excitement of being home on such a legendary field (was special).”
Now the band, which also includes drummer Matt Kelly, guitarist/accordion player Tim Brennan and bagpiper/tin whistle player Josh “Scruffy” Wallace, is back to playing its more customary mix of theaters and large clubs as it tours behind its eighth studio album, “Signed and Sealed in Blood,” which was released in January 2013.
With its busy touring schedule, that meant essentially writing and recording “Signed and Sealed in Blood” between June and August 2012.
“We had to just go in and schedule the studio and get it done and force ourselves to work every single day on it,” DaRosa said. “It was like having a day job, wake up, go to work every day.”
The project, though, was also fun, and DaRosa said that feeling translates to the music on “Signed and Sealed in Blood.”
“The whole album is very uptempo compared to ‘Going Out in Style,’ he said. “They’re fun songs to play live, songs you don’t have to concentrate on so much, just have a good time playing.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 14:39
This fall’s tour with co-headliner Volbeat and opening band Hellyeah (including Wednesday at MetraPark in Billings) is Five Finger Death Punch’s first proper major market U.S. tour in support of its pair of 2013 albums, “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1” (released in July 2013) and “Volume 2” (released last November) - both of which were recorded during the same session.
For a band to go 15 months before doing a major market tour behind a new album is unusual, to say the least. But Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Zoltan Bathory said the group basically had an offer so good that it had to be willing to put touring in the States on the back burner as the two volumes of “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell” were released.
That offer was the chance to co-headline the summer 2013 Mayhem Festival with Rob Zombie.
“That’s something that we don’t turn down,” Bathory said during a recent teleconference interview with reporters. “And I mean we had a huge, huge tour. It was unbelievable. We were exposed to a lot of people.”
But doing that summer tour meant Five Finger Death Punch couldn’t do a headlining tour on the heels of the release of “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1.” With a tour like Mayhem, bands are commonly restricted from returning to markets that tour played for a certain number of months. So a major market tour had to wait, and the things worked out to where the Volbeat/Hellyeah tour was the first opportunity to put together a proper tour behind the two most recent albums.
Bathory isn’t complaining about the tradeoff. He feels having to wait until now to tour in support of the two current albums might work in favor of his band.
“(Usually) you do a record and then immediately we come out with a big headlining tour,” he said. “This was a little bit different but, in fact I think it’s even better, to tell you the truth, because by the time we hit this tour everybody, or fans, have the record, lived with it for long enough (so) they know the lyrics.
And that always makes a better show.”
Five Finger Death Punch has not been entirely absent from the states this year. It spent part of the summer playing major festivals. But Bathory has clearly been looking forward to the tour with Volbeat and Hellyeah since the package came together. In fact, he noted that his band and Volbeat had been trying to arrange a tour together for a few years, but the scheduling of the two bands had never aligned until now.
The tour package also makes musical sense, Bathory said, because each band has a different, but complementary sound.
“Like you don’t want to have three bands that sound identical because then you’re hitting the same exact crowd,” he said. “So technically, you are exposed to some people that may have not come out to see you if it was only you. And it’s true for all three bands.”
The tour also comes at a point when the three bands are all at a good point with their careers. Danish band Volbeat is starting to see some of the major success the group has enjoyed in Europe carry over to America.
Hellyeah has a new album, “Blood for Blood,” out, giving that group a fresh bit of momentum for the tour.
As for Five Finger Death Punch, the group – which now includes Bathory, vocalist Ivan Moody, drummer Jeremy Spencer, lead guitarist Jason Hook and bassist Chris Kael - has been steadily gaining fans since forming in 2005 in Las Vegas.
After debuting with the 2006 album, “The Way of the Fist,” the band spent two years touring before re-releasing the album in 2008. By the time the band released its second album, “War Is the Answer,” in May 2009, Five Finger Death Punch had gained enough popularity for the second album to debut at No. 7 on “Billboard” magazine’s album chart.
The third album, “American Capitalist,” arrived in 2011 and debuted at No. 3 on “Billboard’s” album chart. This paved the way for each volume of “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell” to debut at No. 2 on the album chart.
Songs from the two latest albums figure to be featured alongside key songs from Five Finger Death Punch’s back catalog during its co-headlining set. Bathory is also promising the band will bring a big visual production. One other thing he likes about this tour coming as it does in the fall is that it will play indoor venues, which will enhance the show.
“Of course, it’s about the music, but we have to give the visuals,” Bathory said. “And you know, your fog machines, your lights or whatever the hell you have on stage, it’s just so much more visual and efficient when you play inside.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 12:29
When the Huey Lewis and the News album “Sports” was released three decades ago, MTV was in its infancy and actually playing music videos as radio playlists were becoming increasingly fragmented.
It wasn’t exactly the time or place for an anachronistic group featuring horns, doo-wop vocal harmonies and a harp-blowing frontman to expect any kind of chart success. But that’s exactly what Huey Lewis and the News did with its 1983 studio album.
The band’s third studio outing, it not only went seven times platinum, it topped “Billboard” magazine’s Top 200 charts in 1984, yielded five Top 20 hits (four of which broached the Top 10) and made the group fixtures on MTV and radio. And while it’s ballsy to say the outcome went according to plans, Huey Lewis says there was a clear strategy in place when it came time to hit the studio for the project.
“‘Sports’ was very much a record of its time and a collection of singles. It reminds me that it was a very radio-driven market. There was no jam band scene and no internet,” Lewis explained in a recent phone interview from his home in Montana. “So the only avenue to success was a hit record, and we produced it ourselves; we were an unknown band that wanted to do it on our own terms, which we did, but we unabashedly aimed five of those tracks at radio.
“We didn’t know we were going to have five hits and that’s what we had,” he said. “It holds together less as an album, unlike our subsequent records, which hold together as albums. But as a collection of singles, it did the trick.”
Those five hits were “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “Heart and Soul,” “I Want a New Drug,” “If This Is It” (all top 10 hits) and “Walking on a Thin Line” (which peaked at 18 on “Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.
One factor that hugely helped stoke this success for Lewis and his crew was the effective use of videos. Using the city of San Francisco for a set, Huey Lewis and the News became known for shooting humorous vignettes with a loose plot. Having made some videos way back in 1978 that attracted record label attention, the dissatisfaction with the video for “Do You Believe in Love” from its second album, “Picture This,” led to the News deciding to take conceptual control of the process.
The results were scenarios for the videos from “Sports” that took inspiration from everything from “A Hard Day’s Night”-era Beatles to vintage Hollywood movies.
“Our idea was to stay away from the song, goof around and act stupid like Hullabaloo-style on the site of San Francisco. Let the seagulls shoot the scenery and be the production,” Lewis recalled with a laugh.
“And avoid a literal translation of the song. If it’s kind of serious, be funny. I swiped the opening for ‘I Want a New Drug’ from Paul Newman and Harper when he wakes up and puts his face in the cold ice. We took the shot and then had me go out in a yellow Porsche, which was the same car.”
“Sports” paved the way for two popular follow-up albums, 1986’s “Fore!,” which went double platinum, and 1988’s “Small World,” which went platinum. After that, though, Huey Lewis and the News released only three more studio albums – 1991’s “Hard at Play,” 1994’s “Four Cords and Several Years Ago” and 2001’s “Plan B.”
Of course, by then Huey Lewis and the News had more than enough hits (19 top 10 singles in all) to be able to tour successfully, whether it ever makes another album again.
This year’s touring is getting a boost from a 30th anniversary edition of the “Sports” album, which was released in May 2013. It includes the original album plus a second disc with live versions of each of the nine songs from the record.
For all the planning that went into the making of the “Sports” album, Lewis noted that the project had its difficulties.
“We mixed it in New York five times and couldn’t get it to work,” Lewis said. “Then we sat on it and I listened to it. I knew it had to be cut with a machine so we went back and re-recorded “Heart of Rock and Roll,” “I Need a New Drug” and “Walking On a Thin Line,” he recalled.
“So we went back in, set the drum machine up, sequenced the bass and put it on 114 and it was unbelievable. It came to life,” Lewis said. “There’s a lesson out of this. Machines are exact and you just can’t fake it. Merging machines with humans, you have to be very, very [cautious] and you have to assemble it very carefully. And the ‘Sports’ record was assembled very, very carefully. Since that time, we’ve concentrated on playing better to where we can now capture the songs as just to recreating them. Our last record was cut pretty much live. It’s been an interesting journey.”
Last Updated on Saturday, 02 August 2014 10:15
The Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale has announced that Ellen Moak is the winner of the “Country Idol” contest.
In collaboration with the Billings Gazette, five finalists were selected through a YouTube audition process. The finalists performed live at Symphony in the Park last month and the winner was chosen through a public online vote on the Gazette’s website.
BSO&C Music Director Anne Harrigan said it was a “pleasure to perform with these young and talented artists.” The finalists were Moak, Billings; Doug Balmain, Laramie, Wyo.; Jill Wright, Buffalo, Wyo.; Désja Eagle Tail, Crow Agency; and Amyntas Hinckley, Cowley, Wyo.
Moak will sing with the BSO&C during the March 2015 season concert performance of Gone Country. From Hank Williams and Johnny Cash to Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline this concert features hits from favorite country legends.
Moak graduated from Rocky Mountain College with a bachelor of arts degree in vocal performance. She works in the box office as well as in the executive office at the Alberta Bair Theater.
Moak also sings in the band Ellen and the Old School, which plays throughout the Billings area. This summer Ellen and the Old School will play during the St. John’s Summer Concert Series in Billings.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 09:55
Jason DeShaw, a country singer from Montana, has been selected to receive the National Association of Mental Illness’ Lionel Aldridge Champions Award for 2014.
The Lionel Aldridge Champions Award recognizes someone living with a mental illness who has exhibited courage, leadership and service on behalf of people with mental illness.
In selecting Mr. DeShaw for the award, the NAMI Board recognized his efforts to be a voice for those who struggle with mental illness. He will be recognized with the Champions Award at the 2014 NAMI National Convention in September in Washington, D.C., where he will also perform for the attendees. Vice President Joe Biden will attend the event.
Lionel Aldridge was a defensive star on the Green Bay Packers team of the 1960s and was coached by Vince Lombardi. Aldridge also played in the first two Super Bowls.
After Aldridge retired in 1973, he began a promising career as a television commentator but was stricken by schizophrenia. Before he found the path to fighting for his own recovery, Lionel Aldridge was homeless.
He eventually became a mental health advocate and speaker at NAMI conferences around the country. Every year NAMI honors him at its national convention. Aldridge died in 1998, two days before his 57th Valentine’s Day birthday.
Jason DeShaw, a news release said, “is a beacon of light in the dark world of mental illness and addiction. Baring his soul, Jason shares his hard fought struggles through story and song. His authenticity gives people permission to feel and acknowledges them as valued members of humanity. His goal is to reach out to others who are looking for help with mental illness or addictions.”
He has performed as an opening act for The Oak Ridge Boys, Little Big Town and Pam Tillis, presented his music across several states and in Europe, and has been featured in two television specials.
His style is a down-home, front-porch pickin’ sound. His original country songs are laced with lyrics that tell the story of rural America.
Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker Justin Lubke is researching a potential documentary about Jason DeShaw, and a television special is also being explored by an NBC affiliate.
In October, he will be the featured speaker for the South Dakota state NAMI convention, which will present a special focus on mental illness beginning in childhood and adolescence.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 09:54
With the growth in the popularity of Irish-influenced rock in recent years, and the considerable visibility of groups like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, Young Dubliners frontman Keith Roberts on occasion finds himself having to set a record or two straight about his group’s place in the Irish rock genre.
“I’ve done interviews before and people are like ‘Flogging Molly, I love them. What influence were they on you?’ And I’m like you’ve got to read Wikipedia,” Roberts good-naturedly observed in a recent phone interview, as he remembered his band’s beginnings in the early 1990s. “I had a bar for three years (Fair City Dublin, in Santa Monica, Calif.), and every Saturday night was the Young Dubliners and the opening band was the Dave King Band.
“Dave King is the lead singer of Flogging Molly. The Dave King Band was a rock and roll band. He played with us for three years and his manager finally suggested that he embrace the Irish side of him.
“Dave is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever known and I love him to death. We had such a great three years. But if there was any influence, it was the other way around.”
Indeed, the Young Dubliners are perhaps the longest running act among the generation of Irish-rooted rock bands that in the 1990s followed trailblazers such as the Pogues, the Waterboys and Black 47 onto the music scene.
The Young Dubliners were the first band in this second wave of Irish rock groups to land a record deal, signing to Scotti Brothers Records and debuting nationally with the 1994 EP, “Rocky Road.”
Two decades later, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys may have attained greater success (and other bands with similar influences, including the Tossers, the Saw Doctors and Street Dogs, are also on the scene), but the Young Dubliners are doing just fine. After raising money for recording expenses through fan donations, the group on March 4 released its first studio album in four years, “Nine.”
The album arrived on the Young Dubliners’ own record label, a venture that has put the group in a better position with its business.
“By releasing our own album, we’ve increased the profit potential now of record sales,” Roberts said. “It’s so dramatically different, the profit margin on a record that you release yourself versus on a record that they (record companies) release.”
The ability to make more money on “Nine” was a driving force in starting the label. But Roberts said the music itself also benefitted from the arrangement.
For one thing, the group didn’t have label representatives trying to influence the musical direction of the album, and the band didn’t have to rush the writing and recording process to meet a record company deadline to turn in the album.
“I think that was the huge, main advantage to doing it that way because I know I physically rewrote melodies and rewrote lyrics,” Roberts said. “We didn’t have that crunching deadline. The disadvantage is every now and again you could overthink it. You have to find a happy medium.”
Roberts and his bandmates - bassist Brendan Holmes, guitarist Bob Boulding, violinist/multi-instrumentalist Chas Waltz and drummer Dave Ingraham – wanted to spend the necessary time on “Nine” because they knew a self-released album needed to stand up to the music the group has released on its eight previous albums and EPs. Roberts feels the band achieved that goal.
“It (“Nine”) has been getting great reviews,” Roberts said. “We feel proud of it. It’s got depth to it, it’s got the variety of sound that we like, but it’s also very raw for us. We didn’t overdo it.”
Roberts’ assessment of “Nine” is accurate. Always among the most diverse Irish-rooted bands, the Young Dubliners continue that trend on the new album.
The songs are strong and range from catchy hard-hitting rock (the brisk “We The Mighty” and the punchy “Say Anything”) to poppier, but still brisk, fare (“Up in the Air”), to acoustic ballads (“Rain” and “Only You and Me”) that are graceful and even tender, to tunes that really show an Irish folk influence (the rowdy “Seeds Of Sorrow” and “Fall”).
The Young Dubliners have been playing some songs from “Nine” in concert for a few months now, and fans can expect a well conceived and well rehearsed show.
“I love these bands that say we never do the same set twice in a row,” Roberts said. “And that to me is a little bit hard to believe, because we actually like to do a show, you know what I mean. I want it to be structured and we’re very kind of into playing as well as we can every night and having things being tight.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 10:03