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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Musical Review – Schiavone McGee

Posted by The Bludge on November 17, 2011

Who: Schiavone McGee
Where: Ned Devine’s, Herndon
When: November 11, 2011
CD: My Only Secret

Having been a fan back in Fighting Gravity days, and having purchased the CD online prior to the show, I was very much looking forward to Schiavone McGee performing at Ned Devine’s in Herndon on the appropriately special 11-11-11.

First, the new CD does not disappoint. The strong, electric voice that made an all-ages crowd back in The Bayou days get up and jump shone through and grabbed my attention immediately. I did not have to wonder what my reaction would have been had I not been familiar with his voice, as I played the music for 2 friends that weren’t familiar with Schiavone or his old band – both of them came to the show with me, if that indicates their approval.

Though the new CD bears Schiavone’s name, the new music is backed by a full band, one that adds a wonderful, complex auditory back-story. All of the music is well thought out, placed just-so, and Schiavone should be proud, because he put his heart and soul into this album. It shows. He clearly possesses the talent it takes to create something with a lot of parts and not have any pieces leftover.

Schiavone’s venture away from ska definitely doesn’t come across as a foreign sound. His voice lends itself well to this more mature rock sound. The theme of Schiavone’s solo release seems obvious: personal growth; a shedding of the assumptions of youth. The lyrics paint a reflective look back that I think most of us can relate to, trying in vain to help someone only to realize that sometimes you have to let go. There is evidence of the clarity you get when you stop clinging to something that you’re only attached to by irrational emotion. He seems to have found that there is freedom and independence in taking control of your life. From my vantage, the result seems to be a relaxed confidence.

Though he has been the front-man, and likely had an ego inflated by thousands of fans over the years, Schiavone’s album clearly states: This is mine, and I know it’s good. There’s no bragging. It’s just true. The confidence isn’t ego, Schiavone just owns this as a part of his life–a big, public part, but just a part, and his pieces seem to be fitting together a lot more smoothly these days. Dare I say it comes with age and experience; though Schiavone’s appearance and voice have not seemed to age.

Similar to his vocal prowess not aging, his stage presence has not faded. I believe he might actually be more comfortable on stage than off. As he steps behind the mic the shift between ‘Vonz’ and ‘Schiavone McGee’ is apparent, though it’s a smooth transition. Probably this is true of most performers. When presenting ourselves and our art we are in control, but when we step down from the podium we’re vulnerable to people’s opinions and, in this case, several very drunk women.

Schiavone and his band played numerous new hits as well as some Fighting Gravity tunes, to the delight of many fans that cheerfully sang along at (almost) all of the right spots.
This clearly was Schiavone’s show; the band, though extremely solid, did not have many opportunities to shine. I confess that I’m horribly absent-minded and easily distracted so that could just be my ignorant perception, as I’ve never been a guitar, bass, sax player, or drummer.

So, after returning to my “real job” I played some of Schiavone’s new songs as well as some old, fun, Fighting Gravity tunes and my co-worker not only became an instant fan, but is also anticipating Schiavone’s next gig. I think this speaks volumes for 1) my friends/family having AWESOME taste, and 2) the beauty of Schiavone’s voice.

When I go to good shows, or hear some really good recorded music it stirs up my emotions, making me want to write music of my own. Unfortunately, that’s not my forte, but I did get to take some great photos of ‘Vonz’ and photos of the crowd that he requested:

My favorite of Schiavone

Guitarist Michael Sauri

For more photos, please visit my photography site:


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The Bludge of Chris Pureka

Posted by The Bludge on October 24, 2009

So I had the opportunity to see Chris Pureka in concert this week! This is exciting not only because Chris is pretty awesome, but also I got to go out on a school night!
Without the kids!
Out of the house!
To see Chris!

The first time I saw Chris perform she was opening for Dar Williams at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia – my old stomping grounds.
I hadn’t really ever heard of either of the ladies to be honest with you.
My BFF Jen asked if I’d like to go and trying to say “yes” more often, I said sure! For those of you unfamiliar with her work, I would call Dar Williams a folk artist, a singer songwriter guitar player. And Chris, well…

Chris started her set with “Compass Rose” and from the moment she started plucking her guitar I was damned impressed. She seemed to be producing more notes at one time out of that instrument than I thought possible.
The big empty stage didn’t seem to matter because my full attention was on her as she started singing in an unassuming, honest voice. I immediately turned to Jen and said “Holy Shit.” (Yes, I capitalized the “S” in shit when I said it). Jen, wide-eyed, replied “I know!”

I have no idea what the rest of the songs she played were, I’m sure she played ‘Swan Song’ which is about her Grandmother (who is 90-something and lives in Baltirmore FYI). Swan Song is a jaunty little tune, as Chris says “It’s the one song on my album that isn’t a break-up song”.
Actually she played another song that is up-beat and not about lost love called ‘Porch Songs’, about road trips and no responsibilities.
I’ve never reviewed a musical performance and this happened 2 years ago and I didn’t take notes or anything so I’m not going to get all verbose and use $20 vocabulary words.

Jen and I listened to the rest of her set and then commiserated about how blown away we were by Chris’s performance.

Though Dar played quite a few songs, some of them terribly fun, and she was quite humorous, telling us tales of growing up with hippie parents-which really showed in her music style, I have to say I was more enamored with Chris (in more ways than one but let’s not go there) (:-D).

After the show Jen and I each purchased a Chris Pureka CD
Jen bought her latest album, Dryland, and I bought the older one, Driving North.

We then stood in line and Jen had Dar sign probably ever CD she’s ever made and then we wandered over to Chris who was drinking a beer and talking to just a few people-you could see her shyness in the way that she stood. She looked much softer and more feminine up close than the almost-harshly lit entity that she had been on stage.
The nervousness was endearing and I’m not sure if it made her more human and more approachable or made ME nervous because I was afraid any conversation would be awkward.

I walked up boldly and said something to the effect of it taking some big balls to get up on stage and sing, then complimented her and probably said some stupid shit, then she signed our CDs and that was that! She had two new future hardcore fans!

Jen and I checked Chris’s website to find out when she was playing again in the vicinity of Washington DC and discovered that the closest she was going to be in the coming months, was in Philly. Jen and I exchanged “Hell yeahs!” and made plans for a girl-only trip to Philly! I was stoked because I’d never been to Philly, although I’d had some most-excellent cannolis from there.

Chris was opening for someone we’d not heard of before, Melissa Ferrick, so we checked her out on Myspace and after listening to her live recording I decided we would like her too.

Jen and I recruited my sister Diane to come along. The drive to Philly was hilarious, of course, we’ve known Jen since I was 5 (I won’t tell you how many years ago that was) (ok, it was 27 years ago) so we can all be quite silly and immature together, as evidenced by these pictures of us screwing around at the hotel before we left for the show:

Jen and I

My sis Diane

Jen sings while I accompany her on piano

I like to call this one HOLY SHIT, I QUIT THIS BITCH!

ANYway, we saw Chris and Melissa (we’re totally on a first-name basis now) at the World Cafe Live, a nice-sized venue, not that I know what I’m talking about or have any point of reference.

While not super impressed with Chris’s performance this night-for some reason the stage seemed to swallow her up-I fell in lust love with Melissa Ferrick, but this isn’t about Melissa. I think I was expecting to get that blown-away feeling again, hoping everyone there would feel it too but it didn’t happen.

Jen and I talked to Chris after the show:

and found out she’d be playing at the worst-named college in our area, the University of Maryland University College. It’s nearby the Vehicle Dealership of Cars Dealership.

Anyway, when Chris played at the University College of University College Universities, Jen and I might have came off as stalker groupies, and we also experienced one of the worst warm-up acts we’ve ever seen (all both of them). We still aren’t sure if one of the acts was trying to be funny or really only knew how to play kazoos.

Part of our awkward stalker-behavior was exhibited when, driving away from the building, we saw Chris in her car, talking on the phone, and rudely interrupted her and asked her favorite color. Yep, you read that right.
The thing is, it turned out to be ok because I made a hat and decided to send it to Chris

and at the next show of hers that we went to, I asked if she got the hat and she said it was super soft and she slept in it. Is that CUTE or WHAT? It was really friggen soft.

That show where we spoke of the hat was in Vienna (Virginia) at Jammin’ Java, a nice little venue for small shows, and that is where I saw her again just this week.
For the last two performances she’s been accompanied by singer/bass/violin/etc player Lyndell Montgomery which I think detracts at times from Chris’s performance, but also adds to it at times. It’s odd, sometimes Lyndell plays the violin like she only learned how to play just the songs she plays with Chris, and other times it’s like she’s played so long she’s come up with her own unique ways to play the instruments. This vacillation happens from one song to the next so it’s impossible to figure out.

As an aside, after attending Chris’s last show and Tweeting about it I came across a gal named Amy that also likes Chris that lives in my area and, though I knew she was coming to this show, I had only seen a smaller-than-inch-wide/tall picture of her face so I didn’t think we’d connect there but I actually recognized her and we said hello. Gotta love the internet!

So, I’d already purchased multiple copies of Chris’s CDs (giving some to my friends in order to recruit them) and purchased myself a T-shirt, so at this last concert I purchased shirts for my daughter and BFF Jen, as she was in Louisiana and not happy about not being able to see Chris again. While having Chris sign Jen’s shirt, I asked if she needed a new hat, while telling my pal Rachel that I had made Chris a hat. Chris’s face lit with recognition and said “That was you? I wear that hat to sleep in when I’m at my parents house.” Now, she’d told me that the last time I saw her but apparently I wasn’t naked enough to remember. It’s not that I’m saying I’d have to be naked for Chris to pay attention, but rest assured if I was naked, she would’ve remembered.

Well, Chris will probably remember me this time, and it’s not from anything I did (no, I didn’t get naked!). My daughter, who is 13, wrote Chris a letter, as the performance was on a school night so my kid could not go. In this note, my daughter brought up gay marriage (Chris is a self-professed “queer”), John McCain, Ellen Degeneres, used the phrase “pish posh” and underneath her signature had written “I approve this message”.

Good news, I have been checking the mailbox and so far, no restraining order!

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