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November 30, 2011

BIG SCREEN, BIG CITY

Doughboys documentary premieres in New York

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They've made the most of their second act together.

Now the members of the New Jersey-bred garage band The Doughboys have chronicled their entire history in Rock N’ Raw, a documentary/concert film that’s scheduled to be screened Dec. 3 in Manhattan.

Drummer Richard X. Heyman recently checked in to discuss the reasons for making Rock N' Raw and more.

Medleyville.us: How is Rock N' Raw different from other band documentaries? And what would you say the appeal is for music fans who have never heard of The Doughboys?
Richard X. Heyman: "The first obvious difference is this is The Doughboys' story. Many bands share similar histories, but each group is unique as well. What's interesting to me is that here you have a band that was formed in 1964 and played and lived through that era, and is now transported to the 21st century. Of course, we're older now, but we still have the same enthusiasm that we had for the music, and are thankfully able to put as much energy into our performance as we did back then, maybe even more so.

"I suppose you could use the wine analogy -- we've aged, but I think we've improved with the years! The appeal for music fans is that the band puts 100 percent into our live show, and the film captures a full performance with a professional visual and audio quality, thanks to the stellar efforts of director Rob Adams and his crew and audio engineer Kurt Reil and his assistant Kristin Pinell. Plus, there are lots of stories about our days playing in the '60s, some of them pretty hilarious.

"One of the main reasons we made the film was so that fans from outside the [New York] tri-state area and even the country can get a chance to see us in concert, and also learn about our back story. We've been reunited now for over 10 years, so it seemed an opportune moment to capture the live show on film."

Percentage-wise, how much of Rock N' Raw falls into the following categories: recent concert footage, recent band interviews and archival clips?
Heyman: "I don't know the exact breakdown, time-wise, but it's pretty evenly distributed between the concert footage, recent interviews and vintage photos and 8 mm film."

What can other musicians learn from Rock N' Raw?
Heyman: "Well, certainly the cliché 'it's never too late' comes to mind! But I think younger musicians will get to see and hear an authentic '60s band. The approach to playing our respective instruments and the way the band interacts onstage comes in part from those early days. For example, when I started playing the drums, there was mainly jazz and the first stirrings of rock 'n' roll and R&B, so I learned the traditional way to hold the drumsticks and a lot of jazz rudiments, which for many drummers today is not the case. And the same goes for Myke [Skavone], Gar [Francis] and Mike [Caruso] in the way they play and sing -- they come from a classic rock 'n' roll tradition, which has stood the test of time."

Is there any chance John Zacherle, who featured the pre-Doughboys band The Ascots on his TV show way back in 1966, will attend the Dec. 3 screening? And how about other notables from the band's past showing up that night?
Heyman: "It's possible Zacherle will show up -- he's been invited, but he doesn't go out much anymore, so I don't know for sure."

What does 2012 hold for The Doughboys?
Heyman: "We're working on our next album of original material, which we're very excited about. We're looking forward to lots of gigs and making and meeting new fans."

-- Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

November 26, 2011

OUTSIDE THE BOX CELEBRATES
THE LAST WALTZ

The Stone Pony – Asbury Park, N.J.
Nov. 25, 2011

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Jeff Cafone and Ryan Wheeler

It’s not a stretch to say that if singer/guitarist Jeff Cafone and keyboardist Mark Masefield never bonded over The Last Waltz and The Band, they wouldn’t have formed their band, Outside the Box, in 2004.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Waltz's filming at San Francisco's now-defunct Winterland Ballroom, OTB (and select friends) paid tribute to The Band and the movie's supporting artists by performing The Last Waltz from start to finish some 3,000 miles away at New Jersey's Stone Pony.

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Jeff Cafone

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Mark Masefield, Jeff Cafone and Ryan Wheeler

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Francis Valentino

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Jeff Cafone and Ryan Wheeler

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Outside the Box on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Dec. 7: Union Hall – Brooklyn, N.Y.

* Dec. 8: Milk Boy – Philadelphia

* Feb. 11: Delray Beach Garlic Festival – Delray Beach, Fla.

November 24, 2011

BALANCING ACT

Fay Wolf carves out the time to record her first album

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Like most people, Fay Wolf relies on her organizational skills to keep her professional life in order.

For Wolf, though, that includes music, acting and a steady gig as, well, a professional organizer.

"The three paths are in a constant shuffle," the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter says. "We shall see how the shuffle continues to unfold and balance out -- it's exciting to not know."

But her primary focus lately has been making music, specifically Spiders, her recently released first full-length album.

"I started recording it in early 2010, and lack of time and money did come into play," Wolf says. "But any frustrations I had about the length of time it was taking to finish the album ended up being worth it, as a handful of the songs didn't exist until the 11th hour. And some of those later songs are my favorites.

"That said," she adds, "once everything was written, I was still not in a financial position to be able to finish the project. Thankfully, a healthy Kickstarter campaign full of nice people made it all better."

TV has served as a nice outlet for both of Wolf’s creative ventures. In addition to appearing on Bones and Ghost Whisperer, her music has been featured on such series as Grey's Anatomy and One Tree Hill.

Her slowed-down reworking of The Outfield's "Your Love" was featured in an episode of Pretty Little Liars and also on its official soundtrack.

"I've always loved this tune but never realized what The Outfield was singing about," Wolf says. "It's heavy stuff. It's a sad song, so I made it sound like one.

"I'd been playing it out a bunch and so we decided to record it. Joshua Ostrander of the band Eastern Conference Champions was enlisted to produce the track, and he added his magic to it. When it was finished, the Pretty Little Liars soundtrack [opportunity] happened fairly quickly, and that was/is very, very cool -- especially because I was already a fan of the show."

Given her obligations to running New Order Professional Organizing, (check out her comedic fictional take on that job in a video short with Bones star Emily Deschanel), Wolf will squeeze in concerts to promote Spiders whenever she can.

"As of yet, no [extensive] touring is planned for the immediate future, but I welcome long road trips," she says. "I will hopefully get out on the road in 2012 and earn my touring stripes."

-- By Chris M. Junior

Fay Wolf on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 25: Las Vetas Lounge – Fairfield, Conn.

* Dec. 6: Hotel Café – Los Angeles (Free the Slaves benefit with Cary Brothers and others)

November 19, 2011

JUDAS PRIEST

Izod Center -- East Rutherford, N.J.
Nov. 18, 2011

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Rob Halford

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Glenn Tipton

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-- Photos by Chris M. Junior

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER (AND STILL QUITE GOOD)

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Guns N' Roses
Izod Center -- East Rutherford, N.J.
Nov. 17, 2011


On a crisp fall evening, after some November rain earlier in the afternoon, Axl Rose brought his latest version of Guns N' Roses into the swamps of New Jersey to accomplish a few things.

First, he wanted to prove that even 20 years after the original band's reign of terror that he's still worthy of a mention in the legacy of rock's great frontmen. Second, he wanted the fans to know that his "hired Guns" are the real deal and just as capable as the ex-Gunners who came before them. And third, he wanted to put on a big-time arena rock show to delight the fans and enlighten the skeptics who believe the best days are long gone.

The legend of the Guns N' Roses live experience has been filled with triumph and stubborn behavior in equal dosages. This night’s crowd was treated to the most legendary part right from the start: the waiting. Some played it smart and lingered at local bars and hotels banking on the cursory knowledge that the show wouldn’t start on time. Others milled around the concourse tipping $8 beers with willful abandon and trying to relive their glory days all the while chanting for Axl and Guns N’ Roses. And some others figured that this is a good time to catch some shut-eye and reserve that energy for the show.

But once the house lights went down at just before 11 p.m., it was game on.

The eight-piece band -- Rose, plus DJ Ashba, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thai and Richard Fortus on guitars, Frank Ferrer on drums, Chris Pittman and Dizzy Reed on keyboards and Tommy Stinson on bass -- launched into the title track from 2008's Chinese Democracy with a loud industrial blitz. The sheer volume of the collective band left Rose's vocals muddy and indistinguishable. But they recovered quickly with the true show opener, "Welcome to the Jungle," played with less emphasis of noisy effects and more on the song's true adrenalized nature.

The celebration of all things Appetite for Destruction didn't end there, as the band followed that up with a one-two punch of "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone." Both numbers allowed the band to flex some muscle as well as allow Stinson to shine on the punkier bass lines of 'It's So Easy," while Bumblefoot, Ashba and Fortus shared lead time and riffs throughout "Brownstone."

The early highlight came during the near nine-minute tour de force "Estranged." The full band had an equal hand in making the epic ballad of self awareness into a live masterpiece. However, an extra level of praise goes to Rose for a pitch-perfect rendition that he performed as if it his life depended on it. The members of the audience were in the palm of his hand as they sat in awe of the whole performance until the very last note of the song was belted at full force.

As for the other newer tracks from Chinese Democracy that were sprinkled throughout the night, some were embraced with enthusiastic response like the hard rocking "Better" and the piano driven "Street of Dreams." Others, such as the empty-sounding "Sorry" and the complicated industrial rockers "Sheckler's Revenge" and "Madagascar," didn't hold the crowd’s attention like the classics did.

Another big stumbling point was the amount of solo time the individual band members got. Each guitar player got roughly five minutes each to noodle around over the course of the three-hour show. Stinson used his solo time to trot out a spiky version of The Who's "My Generation" that was followed by Reed's solo stab at "Baba O'Riley." It was a nice gesture to let the guys share the spotlight, but it was ultimately too time consuming for the restless crowd.

The covers didn’t end there: The band also turned in a mixed bag of its own takes on outside material. A pair of AC/DC numbers, "Riff Raff" and "Whole Lotta Rosie," were spot-on and added to the energy of the set. On the other side of the coin, the band’s version of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven’s Door" might have been a novel choice 20 years ago, but GNR’s reading has long overstayed its time. A loud and fast version of Wings’ "Live and Let Die" woke the crowd out of a bit of a lull early in the set, but it also suffered from an overenthusiastic pyro display that blasted at every open spot in the song.

The main set's back stretch was highlighted by the frenzied punch of two classics, "You Could Be Mine" and "Nightrain." Both were 100-percent perfect performances that once again showed off the vocal range that Rose still has in spades. The two songs had some flashy guitar weaving from the guitar trio, and "Nightrain" featured some playful stage antics between Rose and Stinson.

At encore time, the crowd was treated to a mostly subdued version of the ballad "Patience," which saw guitarist Ashba trying all his Slash guitar solo poses while Rose ran the length of the stage numerous time as the song reached its crescendo.

"Paradise City” closed things out in bombastic fashion. Even in their tired masses (at nearly 2 a.m.), the crowd sang and clapped along with Rose as he belted out the beginning chorus before the pyro, whistles and strong guitar riffs took over. This version of Guns N' Roses proved that they can definitely pull off an energetic set, and Rose himself proved that he still has the vocal chops to turn in a three-hour set and sound strong start to finish.

Only time will tell if they have the work ethic to capitalize on it.

-- By Mike Madden

November 14, 2011

WHEN IT BEGAN

Matthew Ryan recalls his discovery of The Replacements

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As Matthew Ryan tours this fall supporting his latest album, I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall, the singer/songwriter will make a slight detour to perform as part of a star-studded concert series in New York paying tribute to one of his favorite bands, The Replacements.

Ryan recently turned the clock back 25 years to talk about how he stumbled upon the band and its music, as well as discuss their appeal and the confidence they've given him throughout his career.

Matthew Ryan: "Things get blurry as you go on, but I'm gonna say it was probably 1986. My folks and I and my brother had moved from Chester, Pa., to a college town in Delaware called Newark. There was a great record shop called Rainbow Records; it had a few little stores throughout that area. … And I remember in the Rs — I can’t remember why I was looking in the Rs — but I saw The Replacements and saw the cover of the Let It Be record.

"I just identified with it immediately. And there was a writer in the local music magazine who had written a lot about The Replacements; he kind of piqued my interest.

"I bought the [Let It Be] cassette. I was kind of so-so on it. I loved 'Favorite Thing,' and I didn't quite get 'Sixteen Blue.' But then 'Unsatisfied' came on, and it was over.

"I think what was cool about it was I had grown up in an area that mainly had album-oriented rock, so I grew up hearing a lot of AC/DC and stuff like that. I didn’t really know about underground music, but I was searching. I was starting to look and check stuff out, you know? And The Replacements and The Clash were my introduction into what I view as real music now — and viewed it that way then. There was just an honesty to it, in everything — in the way they looked, in the way they sounded, the way they sang. It made me think, 'Well, I can do that.' I think it made anybody who loved it feel like on some level that they could do it.

"Now of course, that kind of genius isn’t really that easy (laughs). But it gives you that empowerment: 'I can pick up a guitar, and I can sing a song, and I don’t have to sing in key all the time. I just have to mean it, and that might mean something.' And it does.

"As much of a bastard that [Paul] Westerberg could sound like at times, it was like he was always pulling for you, and it felt personal. I didn’t initially get 'Sixteen Blue,' but as I got older, I did. People try and pick on Don't Tell a Soul, but I think Don't Tell a Soul is a great record. That song 'Achin' to Be' — are you kidding me?

"For me, I just wanna pull for a homely kid in the corner, and I think that comes from some sort of understanding that bands like The Replacements share with you. It's probably the misfits who are the most sensitive and have the most interesting things to say, so you wanna pull for them.

"Stage-wise or performance-wise, I'm probably just about as awkward as those guys were. I mean, Tommy Stinson was always a rock 'n' roll star, but the rest of them were kinda awkward. So I guess it's made me feel like it’s OK to go up there and be awkward (laughs). Tommy Stinson was cool enough for all of them.

“As far as I’m concerned, The Replacements belong right next to The Rolling Stones … [and they were] definitely as important as The Clash, but I don't know if Westerberg would appreciate that. And not to pick on Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, but as far as I'm concerned, [The Replacements] were the first alt-country band. That's always kind of mystified as to why the No Depression gang wants to pretend The Replacements weren't doing that in 1981.

"I love The Replacements, man, and I just hope people understand how great [they were]."

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Matthew Ryan on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 15: The Saint — Asbury Park, N.J.

* Nov. 16: Bowery Electric — New York (Replacements tribute concert — preceded by a screening of the documentary Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements)

* Nov. 18: IOTA Club & Café — Arlington, Va.

* Nov. 19: The Living Room — New York

* Nov. 20: Kennett Flash — Kennett Square, Pa.

Photo by Scott Simontacchi

November 02, 2011

BEYOND THE BLUES

Michael Williams flashes his broadened horizons on Fire Red

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When singer/guitarist Michael Williams moved to Seattle in 2001, the city's music scene was a far cry from what it had been 10 years prior.

"It was like a gold rush had happened, and all the gold was gone," he says with a hearty laugh. "There were some traces of grunge still around there, and they were slowly fading. I went there seeking something outside of the grunge scene, and that was musical freedom."

Leaving Texas for Seattle in his early 20s wasn't a random or impulsive decision. A few years prior, Williams' father, longtime Austin musician Larry Williams (a.k.a. Junior Medlow), had died, leaving him in search of some inspiration.

So Williams went to Seattle, he says, "seeking Jimi Hendrix as sort of a guru of sorts, and I tried to open my eyes a little rounder than just the blues genre. I'm not saying by any means I tried to model myself after Hendrix; I felt like I could draw inspiration from him because he walked that path and was once there."

He adds with a laugh, "I learned a lot while I was there, and I also learned that Jimi Hendrix left."

These days, Williams — who is married with two children — calls Los Angeles his home.

"I try not to play too much around here," he says. "I try to keep it for my family as kind of a refuge. That's odd — keeping Los Angeles as a refuge."

He's not opposed to recording in Los Angeles, though. That's where he made Fire Red, the second album credited to the Michael Williams Band. While blues serves as the album's sturdy foundation, there are also R&B flourishes (the sweaty James Brown-style horns on the opening track, "Hey Baby"), a cool Latin-flavored/Spanish-language detour (the lively "Entre Tus Ojos") and bona fide singer/songwriter fare (the John Mayer-ish "Dead and Gone," the album's closer).

Williams has nothing but good things to say about Fire Red producer Eddie Kramer, who first made a name for himself in the 1960s working with Hendrix.

"He was all over us: 'You need work here; you gotta do this,' "Williams recalls. "He would be in the room just as much as he was in the sound booth. He was heavily involved with the way things came out. We had a rough idea what we wanted to do, but when I was able to cultivate that relationship with him, I felt like I was reborn into a new musician."

— By Chris M. Junior

Michael Williams Band on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 4: Union County Performing Arts Center — Rahway, N.J. +

* Nov. 5: Rams Head — Baltimore +

* Nov. 6: Symphony Hall — Allentown, Pa. +

* Nov. 9: State Theater — Portland, Maine +

* Nov. 10: Ridgefield Playhouse — Ridgefield, Conn. +

* Nov. 11: Moondogs — Pittsburgh #

* Nov. 16: Keswick Theater — Glenside, Pa. +

* Nov. 17: B.B. King Blues Club & Grill — New York ++

* Nov. 18: Hershey Theatre — Hershey, Pa. +

* Nov. 20: Midland Theatre — Newark, Ohio +

# solo show
+ with Buddy Guy
++ with Delbert McClinton

Photo by Carrie Robinson