Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ship and Shore Blues Festival to showcase blues and more


Those wanting to attend a blues festival this summer with ties to blues royalty need look no further than the Ship and Shore Blues Festival, which will take place Aug. 8 at Lions Beachfront Park in New Buffalo, Mich.

As part of the festival, Precious Jewel Taylor will perform a tribute to her aunt, the late Koko Taylor, Queen of the Blues. In addition, Shirley King will be part of a tribute to her father, the late B.B. King.

The festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and tickets will be sold at the gate. A full schedule of performers is available at the festival's website,

I had the chance to talk to festival producer John Moultrie, who also is publisher of iRock Jazz, about the festival. 

Q - Great talking to you. In putting together the lineup for this year's festival, what were your goals?

I wanted to bring world class blues musicians to New Buffalo and that's what we did. We have a Grammy award-winner and two Blues Hall of Fame inductees.

Q - What do you think separates your blues festival from other blues festivals? I'm not sure what separates us, but what makes us distinctive is our national brands partners and our interactive components.

Ford test drives, Chrysler shuttles, Harley Davidson JUMPStart, Game Truck, Curious Kids Discovery Zone and Musical Instrument Petting Zoo.

Q - I see that Karisa Wilson, who is from Michigan, is on the bill. She seems to be a musician who is on the rise. What were some of the reasons you wanted her on the bill? 

Karisa is a multi instrumentalist who also sings. She's won several awards in different genres of music and is considered a rising star in Grand Rapids.

We also have Hank Mowey on the bill. He is another Grand Rapids rising star.

Q - The festival also features artists who are connected to blues legends, such as Precious Taylor, the niece of the late Koko Taylor, and Shirley King, the daughter of the late B.B. King. Do you see them as helping carrying on their legacy and perhaps helping to educate people about their music?

I think each of them support their family's legacies by performing and telling stories through their music.

Q - Chicago Women in the Blues also is part of the lineup. All these artists already have a commanding force individually. They must really put on energetic show when they get together.

This a must see performance!! They put on a four hour non- stop show.

This is almost unheard of these days. Individually they are band leaders in their own right, but collectively, they are your blues dream band.

Q - You also publish What are you trying to do with the website? 

Our goal is to document the music, artists, stories and culture.  We are now broadening our coverage into other genres like blues and other forms of music.
Q - The phrase "Keep the Blues Alive" is a popular phrase. What do you see as the future of the blues across the country? 

Blues has the same issues sustaining itself as jazz. The greats are passing on and clubs / venues are scarce. Music innovation, broadening the audience.. younger, more marketing and rebranded messaging would help.

Blues is here to stay period! The future is bright and we're doing our part keeping the music alive by exposing new artists and great ones to New Buffalo at our festival.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chicago band Audio Content working on new album, will perform July 25 at Debonair Social Club

On its latest album, "Mostly Right...All The Time," Chicago band Audio Content strived to write the most honest album it could.

The members of Audio Content are currently working on the band's fourth album. Audio Content will perform July 25 at Debonair Social Club, 1575 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

Flocks & The Lookout and Sarah Eide & The Borderland Band also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10.

I had a chance to talk to Audio Content lead vocalist Derek Drake about the band.

Q - Great talking to you. The band released its EP "Mostly Right...All The Time" last year. What were your goals for the EP and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a meaning behind the album's name?

The single motivation when we set out to write "Mostly Right...All The Time" was "challenge." How can we do  better than "Come Home," our previous album?

We challenged ourselves to write and record the album to a click. We generally write with lots of dynamic, so the click posed a tremendous challenge.

On a personal level, I wanted to be honest. No bullshit. No beating around the bush.

The title sort of just came about during a conversation we were all having. It is about the Challenge we as men have.

We think we are right, when most of the time, we are just full of shit.

Q - How do you think the band has evolved since first forming? How would you describe the band's chemistry?

The synergy we have when approaching new material is hands down unlike any other creative experience I've had. I can tell almost immediately if a song will work.

It seems like Ravi and Tim write material. Many of our earlier songs I wrote in less than 30 minutes. My thinking at the time was what it written is written.

Now I take my time. I challenge myself to not suck. So far, so good. I think. 

Q - Tell me about your upbringing. Was it hard growing up gay in a strict religious household? How do you think your experiences have impacted your songwriting? 

I was born in a small little town called Ford Heights. It's south of the city, close to the Indiana border. 

My parents had me at very young age. My mom was 13 and my dad was 15 when they got pregnant with me. So in a way I grew up with my parents.

My grandmother was very strict and extremely religious. Every day I was in church. Literally, every day.

I wasn't allowed to listen to "devil" music. The Cranberries' album "Zombie" changed my life.

I was a freshman in high school when I heard it for the first time. From that day on I would listen to "those stations" trying to hear that song.

As a result, I was exposed to other songs. The songs I write typically have some element of spirituality or religion. There are many "gospel" songs on our album.

The song "Atonement" from the album "Come Home" is gospel. That was about me getting over one of the pastors molesting me and the things that happened to me post that experience.

Everything I write is something I have experienced or has happened around me. My grandmother told me once, "why go to hell for a preference?" I had to go through exorcism to get rid of my gay demons.

The pastor that participated in the exorcism is the one that was giving me his gay demon. The song "We Go On" is the by product of that situation. Gospel.

My family has since come around. My grandmother, though still a heavy Bible banger, doesn't take issue with who I am.

Q - What do you think of the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage? Do you see it as another step toward equality?
My husband and I were married back in 2012. We have a 5 year old. This ruling validates our existence in the world of family and parenthood.

Prior to this, if we wanted to move to another state, we would have to consider our family not being able to exist without modifications. This is BIG. Imagine someone telling you that your family doesn't matter.

I think the progress we have made is bittersweet. To think that in a 2015 America, people are finally allowed to marry another adult. That is crazy to me.

The part that is most disheartening is that it wasn't a unanimous decision by the court. To think that there are judges sitting on the highest court in the land that believe, legally, my husband and I should not be married but my friend that is on his third marriage is all good...blows my mind.

Q - The Soundgarden influence is strong in the band. Why do you think that band has had such an impact on Audio Content's music?

I don't know if it's so much that particular band and their influence on us as much as it is the era that Soundgarden was most influential on the music scene. We are all over 35, so we grew up during a time when bands really used melody and sonic talent to create songs. 

We are very much driven by melody and mood, and I believe that is where the comparison to Soundgarden might be strong.

Q - What are the pros and cons of being an independent band? Do you think the positives outweigh the negatives?

The obvious pros to being and independent band is we call the shots on the type of music we make and the image we put out. There is nothing like being in control of your own product.

The con to that end is having a vast support system to take care of the daily grind of getting that product out into the ears of the listener. We're all family men, so making the time to write, practice and improve is a valued commodity.

We come ready and prepared. The majority of the time. We know that our time is valuable so we use it wisely.

I think that is a huge component of being independent. No one is making you do it. We do it because we love it.  

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think Audio Content fits into it?

The Chicago music scene is  very diverse. In just looking at the bands of our friends, there is punk, metal, rock, pop rock, blues, alt-rock, avant garde and some questionable sounds.

The thing that makes the Chicago scene great is that there is room for everyone. I just wish original bands got as much love on the scene as the cover bands.

Audio Content is just as diverse. With influences in gospel, rock, pop and classical we fit right into the conundrum of the Chicago scene.

Q- What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

In the short term, we are preparing for upcoming shows and finishing up album #4. Long term, we continue to work on the stage performance. Always be changing.

Are the transitions fluid? Is there continuity between the songs? Does our set tell a story or is it all over the place?

When people leave our show are they thinking to themselves, "Damn that rocked!" These are a few of the questions we have to ask ourselves.

Success lives in the answers. If we can come to practice every week, play these songs and still fall in love, we have achieved what we have set out to achieve.

Rock good and hard.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chicago band Farkus to perform new songs at Cubby Bear show

Chicago band Farkus is not the type of band that can be labeled.

The band is just as comfortable playing hard edged songs as they are a folk song. The band has been writing new songs, and will debut five new songs when it performs July 17 at the Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison St., Chicago.

Vandalay, PJ & Soul and Skippin' Rocks are also part of the bill. The music starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $7 in advance and $10 the day of the show, available by going to 

I had the chance to talk to Farkus frontman Tony Maguire about the band.

Q - Great talking to you. I understand the band has been writing new songs. How has that been going? Will you be playing a lot of new songs at the Cubby Bear on July 17?

Great talking to you as well. Thanks for the opportunity.

For the last six months or so, we’ve focused primarily on writing new material. It’s been going great.

We have more ideas than we’ll ever be able to use for our next record, but it still takes a lot of work to distill these ideas into completed songs. We will be debuting five new songs for our Cubby Bear show that we’ve been anxious to finally perform.

Q - What should people expect from the new album? In sitting down to write a song, what comes first for the band, the words or the music? Is it a collaborative effort?

We’re definitely taking more chances and covering some new territory. One song is very ambient, another with a really funky groove, and a good ol’ fashion Americana style rock tune.

We even have an unabashed pop song titled “Until Tulum,” but we’ve spiced it up with some Latin influenced rhythms and a jazzy chord progression. We joke that it sounds like Santana meets Steely Dan.

The new arrangements we’ve been working on give us more opportunities to jam and improvise live, which is a strength of the band I don’t think we’ve exposed enough. Some of our best moments at our rehearsals are just jamming on a chord progression or a vamp someone introduces while we’re waiting on someone else getting a beer.

Writing is a very collaborative process for us, but it happens in a variety of ways. Typically Brian (Gillham, guitarist) or I introduce a riff to the band and we jam on it trying various approaches. I experiment with some vocal melodies using complete gibberish for lyrics.

After everyone has an idea of the song, we work on our parts individually and then regroup. Often we’ll find that ideas we have worked on independently work well together and we start developing the arrangement.

On occasion, I will come with a song almost fully fleshed out or I’ll have a lyric or melody I will work with Brian to write some chords around. 

Q - When did you make the video for the song "This Happens Everyday" and what was that experience like? What was the idea for the video?

We filmed the video for “This Happens Everyday” in January of this year. Our friend Bubs, who filmed our “Ally of the Enemy,” video wanted to expand from having a video of just the band performing.

We listened to the record together and discussed potential ideas for each of the songs. “This Happens Everyday” already had the makings of a video built into the story of the song’s conception.

I took about a month long road trip to the West coast and back a few years ago after I was let go from a project I was working on that was abruptly cancelled. I figured I may as well make the most of the time off, so I just packed up the car and hit the road.

I camped, couch-surfed, and stayed with some friends along the way. I toured some national parks, saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, and met a lot of amazing people.

I wrote the song in the process and recorded it originally in L.A. with Dave Rieley, who produced our album, “Thought You Should Know.”
We decided to just recreate that trip and it was a great excuse to escape the Chicago winter for a week. It obviously wasn’t practical to bring the entire band, but luckily our bass player, Kevin (Coyne, was able to join us.

He has a cameo as the hitchhiker in fact. The three of us flew out to Vegas, rented a car, and just made it up as we went.

It’s basically a very well documented vacation. We had a blast.

Q - It seems like you guys are just as comfortable playing harder edged songs as "Ally of the Enemy" as you are playing more stripped down songs like "This Happens Everyday." What is the band's approach to making music? Who or what are your biggest musical inspirations?

We don’t have much of a set approach and don’t set any boundaries for ourselves. That’s why you’ll end up hearing a hard rock tune and a folk song on the same album.

We write music that we enjoy and as a band we have wide variety of influences.

We share a lot of favorites as a band such as Rush, Pearl Jam, Tool, and Primus to name a few, however, individually, we all have a plethora of personal influences.

After we wrap up a practice, we usually spend some time playing some music we want to share with the other band members. Kevin will jam some Melvins or Tomahawk, Brian will treat us to some Guthrie Govan guitar mastery or lately Megadeth, Dave constantly reminds us of some overlooked classics from bands like Black Sabbath or deep cuts from someone like Smashing Pumpkins, and I’m usually pushing whatever band I’ve seen lately, such as Faith No More, since they just came through town.

It’s a great exercise to examine the songs together and helps to spark our own ideas. 
Q - How did the band get together in the first place and how do you think Farkus' music has evolved over the years? Is there a meaning behind the band's name?

I had been playing guitar with Brian since high school and I was visiting him at U of I back when the Bears were playing there for a season. Brian and I were playing some songs at a party and Dave (Durdov) introduced himself and mentioned he played the drums.

I got together to jam with Dave back in Chicago and when Brian was back from college, he joined up with us and our bassist at the time, Matt Kircher. Kircher eventually left the band when he started his career as a doctor.

We were looking for a new bass player and I had heard great things about Kevin, who Brian and I also went to high school with. Kevin came by to jam with us and we immediately knew we had found our new bass player.

Our music has evolved quite a bit. Our earliest material consisted mostly of songs I had written as solo acoustic guitar pieces before the band had even formed or in its infancy. 

Then having a band opened up new possibilities to me as a songwriter. Eventually we began collaborating on the music more and more as we gained experience jamming together.

This increased our musical palette exponentially. Each band member also spends a lot of time working to further develop their abilities, which has helped speed up the evolutionary process. Fun new equipment we pick up along the way always helps too.

There isn’t really much of a meaning behind the name.  Farkus is the bully in the movie "A Christmas Story," who Ralphie overcomes in a fit of rage.

During the scene the narrator says, “Farkus, what a rotten name.” With an impending gig we were offered, we needed something and we wanted it to be short and simple.

Our friend, and fellow local musician of Mazes, Pat Cavanaugh, tipped us off to the name, actually.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you see the band fitting into it?

Chicago has such an abundant music scene which is great although it can make it very tough to pin down a “scene” at all.  There are some obvious trends towards the folk or indie sound for instance but aside from that, it is hard to find much cohesion.

We find ourselves in a weird state of limbo. We’ll get billed with indie sounding bands one night and then some really heavy bands another, but we’re too heavy for the former and not heavy enough for the latter.

I also don’t know of any other bands that will do a cover of a band like Living Colour or Rush without trying to be ironic.

We’re not concerned, though. As our friend Neil suggests we must put aside the alienation.  “All the world is indeed a stage and we are merely players; performers and portrayers.  Each another’s audience outside the gilded cage.”  (hint, hint)

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals? 

In the short term, we are focused on finding more opportunities to gain exposure in Chicago. It’s such a huge market that we don’t feel the need to pack ourselves in a van and start driving across the country until we’ve penetrated the market here sufficiently.

We’d really love to get a chance to play a street festival, for instance. We’ve been very fortunate to have a good consistent base of fans that come see our shows, but it can be difficult to find new ears when most of the people coming to your shows are coming because they are already familiar with your music.

In the long term, we’re continuing to write new music and planning to have a new release ready relatively early in 2016. We have been kicking some ideas around of hitting some other cities in the Midwest.

Short weekend trips where we hit two or three cities for instance. We’ve also done a couple of private shows in our practice space and they turned out great.

We’d like to do this on occasion and invite other bands to join us.  In the meantime, we’re just going to continue having a blast creating music together.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Chicago band Dastardly explores new musical horizons on "The Hollow," will play at Lincoln Hall

Chicago band Dastardly is the type of band that believes in exploring new musical horizons.

The band does just that on its new album, "The Hollow," a record which pushes past its folk-based sound. Dastardly will play the album in its entirety during a CD release party July 11 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Gold Web and Oshwa are also on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10, available by going to

I had the chance to talk to Dastardly frontman Gabe Liebowitz about the new album. 

Q - Great talking to you again. The last time we spoke, the band was releasing its debut album. In sitting down to make "The Hollow," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a meaning behind the album's name?

The goal was to make an album without creative compromises, and I think through the course of a couple years we were able to achieve our vision pretty fully. I'll let the listeners get their own meaning from the album title, but it certainly ties together a lot of lyrical themes throughout the album.

Hollows are traditionally backdrops in old American songs where romance and death occur. 

Q - The album veers from your folk-based sound. Are you afraid that you might lose some fans because the band is going in a new direction?

No, we're a constantly evolving band and are going to present ourselves with whatever music excites us the most and best expresses ourselves, regardless of how we may have been previously established. 

Q - I am sure that you will be playing a lot of the new songs at your July 10 show. Do you have any favorite songs off the new album that you enjoy playing live?

We'll be playing the whole album at the show! It's definitely been a challenge to figure out how to perform these songs live since they're such products of the studio, but they've been coming along really nicely. 

We do a really fun version of "So Long Ma," and it's always a visceral experience doing "St. James Infirmary."

Q - I understand you started writing the album in August 2012. What made you want to spend so much time on this album?

I didn't want to set deadlines so that our main goal was making the most amazing music we were capable of making, no matter how long it took. That process involves a lot of trial and error, experimentation and failing until a vision snaps into place, and sometimes for a very involved piece of work, that can take many years. 

Q - What are the pros and cons of being an independent band? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Everything is in your power. How you sound, how you look, how you present yourself, where you play. However, sometimes it gets exhausting to have to cover all grounds by yourself!

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and where do you think Dastardly fits into the scene?

Chicago has one of the most inspiring art scenes in the country. There are a lot of bands doing what I like to call "art rock" - not overly experimental, but not simple or easy to peg into categories either.

I think Oshwa and The Gold Web are two of the strongest acts in that circuit and we're excited that they're joining us at Lincoln Hall! I also curate a showcase the last Thursday of every month at Cafe Mustache, where 10 artists of various genres do two songs each, and that's been a great way to be involved with a variety of different amazing performers.

Q - The band has six members, which is large for a band. I understand that you recently added a couple of members to better replicate your sound live. How has that been going?

Yea, essentially the core four of us worked on the record (myself, Sarah Morgan, August Sheehy and Andy Taylor), but the songs are so big and have so many parts that we had to enlist two more people to pull them off live! It has been about a year long process to work out the live show.

We're now incorporating Joe Darnaby (from Brighton MA and Bailiff) on electric guitar, and Natalie Turner on clarinet. We've been practicing a ton getting ready for the show and I really feel like it's fallen into place.

It's really a different experience from the record. 

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Keep making music! And do another "Total Scene" interview in three years!