As champions of new music discovery, we often feature neophyte artists in this slot; artists just starting their careers, making new, intense, and immediate music of all kinds. Artists with serious longevity are harder to come by. Bands that stay together for a long time often lose that spark, even when the material remains good.
Then there’s The Figgs, who just celebrated their 25th year together (they formed as teens in Saratoga Springs, NY), and who are still making vibrant, creative, and constantly evolving pop music that transcends time and age, putting many a young, hyped-up indie band to shame.
Having recently released The Figgs Anthology: 1000 People Grinning, the band can look back at a career that includes 12 studio albums, two live albums, several EPs and singles, and a slew of side projects (members have played with Soul Asylum, NRBQ, and Tommy Stinson, and the group has had a long-running stint as Graham Parker‘s backing band). Remarkably, the last few records the band has released have been their best. Where other bands become complacent in time, The Figgs have become a lean, confident, powerful unit, taking creative risks to achieve frequent moments of pop perfection. Their sound is clean and simple, but not unadorned. The lyrics are entertaining, insightful, funny, ironic, self-referential. They are indeed known as a pop band, because the songs are most often quick and to the point, but few bands playing live today rock as hard. Most importantly, they know the groove intimately – feeling it is obviously priority one for The Figgs. And that is timeless.
They are not a new band, but you might not know them. So we invite you to discover The Figgs.
We know a lot of you out there are gamers of varying degrees. And a lot more since we ran the Superstars Game Trailer competition last year with our frequent partner, Intel. Well, we just wanted to announce that our friends at Slimstown Studios have announced their newest game, Dragonbites: Smokin’ Bunnies. The game, coming soon for smartphones and tablets, features an eclectic cast of characters, lewd & crude humor, enemies that fire back, and the ability to choose any type of bunny-based projectile for any shot. Check out the trailer after the jump and go to iTunes for download.
OurStage, Guitar Player magazine, and Ernie Ball are teaming up this summer to offer aspiring guitarists a chance to win the ultimate Grand Prize. Enter the Guitar Player “Take The Lead” Competition by August 17 for your shot to win your very own feature in Guitar Player magazine, a year’s supply of strings and accessories from Ernie Ball, and more! Throughout the competition, we’ll be bringing you exclusive editorial content, fresh from guitarplayer.com”enjoy!
Certain people are very mental, ” says legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, “they need to have rules and concepts and directions and scales and theory in order to play. But that’s not what music is about. Music has the same significance as beams of light coming out of the clouds and giving information to plants. Every note should be like a beam of light. You’re giving information to the listener, and you’re reminding them they also have light and significance. That’s improvising to me. The other stuff is just like going ˜da-da-da-da-da.’ It’s nothing.
-Published by Matt Blackett, Guitar Player magazine
Over the course of writing this column, I’ve come across some pretty sensational vocalists, and I had the chance to pick many of their brains about the most important aspects of being a professional singer. I’ve also observed many of the biggest voices in music, and the way that their voices have developed and changed over time. Getting up and singing for an audience, whether you’re a professional singer or just someone who loves to sing, is not easy. So, here is a list of some of the advice I’ve encountered while writing Vocal Points that may help the aspiring singers out there:
- Everyone can sing. This is probably the most important piece of advice I’ve encountered because so often we feel that only certain people are blessed with a beautiful voice. As vocal therapist Mark Baxter said in his OurStage interview, “Singing came before speech. Humans are instinctively wired to send and receive melodic passages of emotional statements.” So if you love to sing, don’t let anyone else stand in your way.
- Nobody is perfect. Its important to remember that our favorite vocalists got to be so good because of hard work and practice. As Kevin Devine explained to me, “I think I’ve embraced my limitations as a singer and tried to re-frame them as strengths. “
For our last installment of Vs, we’re doing something a little different. Instead of comparing an OurStage artist to an artist in the mainstream, we’ll be taking a look at OurStage’s Best Of The Best Charts. Specifically, we’re taking a look at the Number 1 artist in four categories, Pop, Rock, Urban and Country, and examining what makes them great along with what makes them standout from their peers on OurStage.
Pop – Austin Renfroe
Austin Renfroe seems to have become a fan favorite here at OurStage. Between winning competitions left and right, he was also a finalist in The OurStage Panel Finale. While most modern pop music is becoming more electronic and Autotuned, Renfroe stands out by making music that is natural and organic sounding yet incredibly catchy. The multitalented singer-songwriter plays both the guitar and piano, but his biggest strength is his voice. His distinctive soulful style also possesses an incredible range”Renfroe often switches between a low register and a silky sweet falsetto in the same song. His song “Taking Me Under” showcases all of his vocal skills, using falsetto and vocal embellishments to create a killer hook in the chorus. Renfroe is also a gifted songwriter, blending elements of pop, folk, soul and rock into his songs. Between “Honesty,” a more upbeat pop/rock track, and “Can’t Bring Us Down,” a stripped down acoustic song, it’s clear that he has the versatility and talent to stick around for awhile.
Rock – Chasing Eden
Chasing Eden have been making waves for awhile, having been on OurStage’s Best Of The Best Chart for over seventy-five weeks and racking up a whopping fifteen Top 10s and ten Top 40s. This hard rock band forms the basis of their sound around heavy, chugging guitar riffs. However, unlike most other bands in their genre, Chasing Eden utilize a female lead singer. Andrea Brink’s voice is smooth and sweet, which contrasts with the rest of the band’s heavy riffing. However, if you listen to songs like “All I’m Asking” or “Remember Me,” you can hear that this contrast actually works really well, and it is one of the main reasons that Chasing Eden have remained a mainstay at the top of our charts.
Urban – Greg Banks
We covered Greg Banks, one of the many talented young artists who are revitalizing R&B, on Vs. before. Banks is not only a supremely talented singer, but also a gifted songwriter who writes all of his own music. Banks creates his unique sound by using real instruments in his compositions to create a warm sound in a genre that, ironically, can sometimes lack soul. His song “Selfish” shows off his songwriting skills as well as his vocal prowess. This song begins with a riff that is finger picked on an acoustic guitar, which becomes the focal point of the song. Other instruments like violin and keyboard are added to the mix to flesh out the song. Banks’ voice is also impressive here, using his range to hit high notes that most other singers wouldn’t be able to hit.
Country – Allen Layman
Allen Layman is a journeyman, the perfect archetype for country music. He’s played in various bands in all parts of the country, which gives him plenty of lyrical inspiration. Layman plays a more traditional brand of country, eschewing the pop-infused sound of most modern country. Layman sings in a smooth, deep baritone, recounting tales of heartbreak and homesickness. It’s the kind of voice that sounds like it’s been through years of hardship, spending late nights in smoke-filled bars. Songs like “Reason To Live” and “If I Can Make You Love Me” not only showcase Layman’s fantastic voice, but also his great twangy guitar skills.
But what do YOU think of these artists? Do you think another artist should be at the top of the charts? Let us know in the comments!
Here at Live Wired a love of live music has led us to many different concerts, from arena shows to performances at small, intimate clubs. For us, there’s nothing better than experiencing a favorite artist or band singing their songs before our very eyes while surrounded by fans who love them just as much as we do. Of course, we’ve learned a lot along the way, so we thought we’d share our findings with you!
When attending a concert:
- DO buy tickets ahead of time. This seems painfully obvious, but no one wants to be that person who waits until the last minute then finds out that the show is sold out.
- DON’T cut in line. We learned this in elementary school, right?
- DO bring a camera with you (if it’s allowed). It’s always nice to have a few pictures and maybe a video to document a great night.
- DON’T spend the entire night taking pictures; just take a couple towards the beginning of the show. You only get to actually experience the concert once, so make sure you’re taking it all in. If your face is behind the camera the whole time, you won’t feel as connected with the night, the crowd and the performer.
- DO attend shows at all different types of venues. Smaller clubs provide a unique experience where you can be close to the artist but arena shows can be equally as spectacular and epic.
- DON’T be afraid to go to a show by yourself. You may not always have a friend who likes the same band as you or can drop the money for a concert, but that doesn’t mean you should have to miss out!
- DO considering wearing earplugs. You can buy cheap ones and they’ll seriously protect your ears from damage.
- DON’T miss the opening acts. One of the best feelings is seeing an unknown band live for the first time, and just knowing that they’ll be big.
Have some more concert tips? Let us know in the comments!