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Drake Winners Perform And Report In Toronto

Last weekend, we packed our bags and headed to Toronto to cover hip hop artist Drake’s first annual O.V.O.(October’s Very Own) Festival in support of OurStage “Thank Me Later” winning artist Lokz and backstage correspondent Megan Sumpton.  The widely anticipated O.V.O fest was best hyped by Drake himself who promised concertgoers a “magical night.” The excitement grew as Drake personally invited Megan on his tour bus where he admitted he regularly follows her on Twitter. During his interview, Drake spilled the beans to Sumpton that heavyweights Eminem and Jay-Z were going to be joining him during his set. When Drake finally hit the stage later that night, the crowds went wild.  The excitement of seeing Drake, Young Jeezy, Bun-B, Francis & The Lights and Lokz was enough to sell out the Molson Amphitheatre, but when Drake said he had some surprises up his sleeve, no one could have expected what was to come. When Jay-Z and Eminem took the stage for the respective performances, the audience twice erupted into a frenzy of screams and cheers. Of course, Drake’s performance stole the show and was the culmination of the day’s events for Lokz, Sumpton and 15,000 devoted fans.

Check out all the backstage video coverage here on OurStage.

Fan Diary: Carly Bosh Meets HANSON

When I first found out that HANSON was going to be partnering with OurStage to hold opening band contests for each stop on their “Shout it Out” tour, I thought, “Great!  I love getting to check out new music!”  I have loved HANSON since I was in fifth grade, and whenever they’re on tour I usually make it a point to see them at least a couple of times, so I knew I was going to be interested in the outcome.  I was already familiar with the way OurStage works, as I had judged other channels in the past, and I think it’s a really fair and effective way to determine the most talented and deserving artists within any given category.  Then, on top of that, when I found out that OurStage was ALSO giving away two tickets and a meet and greet session with the band for each show, I was all that much more excited to participate in the voting process.  Although I’m from Massachusetts, I had planned on going to see HANSON and A Rocket to the Moon in Sayreville, NJ, so I made sure to judge that channel all throughout the month of June.  Fortunately for me, all that listening paid off and I was selected as the fan winner for the show!  I was beyond thrilled!

I have been fortunate enough to briefly meet HANSON a few times over the course of my travels as a fan, but I had never met them in such an intimate setting before.  I was a little nervous but really excited on the day of the show.  My friend Michele and I arrived to the Starland Ballroom about an hour and a half before doors, and in addition to the two of us, there was also a group of HANSON fans who had won meet & greets through their fanclub, so we all waited around together until a little before doors opened when we were brought inside to meet HANSON!

The fan clubbers had some time with the band first, while Michele and I waited over to the side and watched them interact.  After a few minutes they had finished, and we had our time with Isaac, Taylor and Zac.  I have to say, every time I have had the chance to speak with any of the guys from HANSON, they have been more than welcoming.  HANSON’s music has had a huge influence on my life, so you would think it would be hard for me to even form words around the guys, but they are so down to earth that it feels more like talking to old friends than meeting my idols!  We took our group picture and then I asked the guys to sign a photobook that I had brought with me.  There was a little debate on whether they should sign the front or the inside, so they ended up signing both.  Haha!  We talked for a few minutes, and I put in a request for them to play their song “I Will Come to You” during the show that night.  The meet and greet ended with a round of hugs, and then Michele and I walked back through the venue to the stage.

OurStage Winning Artist Brightside Drive

Doors were already open by the time we were finished, but they must not have been open for long because the 2nd row over to the side was still open!  Free tickets, a meet & greet, AND a great spot for the show?  Incredible!  And then on top of all that, the whole show was fantastic!  The OurStage opener for Sayreville was called Brightside Drive and they were really talented.  They had a really upbeat pop/rock sound that was perfect for getting pumped for the rest of the night.  I definitely enjoyed their set and would encourage other people to check out their music.  A Rocket to the Moon went on next, and I was really excited to see them play.  I have not been able to stop listening to their album On Your Side since it came out last fall, and they performed quite a few songs from that record, including their song “Like We Used To” which is one of my favorites, so I was stoked.  They started things off with a stellar cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl”, too. I loved it.

Finally, HANSON came onstage.  At this point, I have been to over 30 HANSON concerts, and I think this one takes the cake for my favorite show and setlist.  They played quite a few songs from their newest album Shout it Out, in addition to a bunch of old favorites, plus a couple of rare songs and some great covers as well.  It was just an overall great, well-rounded show.  Highlights included “I Will Come to You” (which I had requested that they play during the meet and greet), Taylor’s solo “Never Let Go” (one of my favorite songs”this was my first time hearing it live), “More than Anything” (a rarely-performed ballad from back in the day), “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin'” (Hanson’s new single), “Penny & Me” (a fan favorite), and a cover of Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming”.

It was an incredibly high-energy performance, enhanced by the crowd’s enthusiasm and singing along with every word.  HANSON ended the show with a cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll)”.  Taylor jumped up on his piano right above where we were standing in the crowd, and then at the very end of the song both Zac and Taylor jumped off the drum kit.  It was absolutely amazing!  What a great way to end the night. I could not have imagined a better day, between the meet & greet, the awesome opening bands and HANSON’s incredible setlist and performance.  I don’t know that it will ever be topped. I have to send out a HUGE thank you to HANSON, and especially to OurStage.  You guys are the best!  Thank you so much for this opportunity!

-Carly Bosh

Q&A With Metric

The concept of a female-fronted band isn’t really old news. Most often, you’ll find these acts forging more of a straight up “rock” sound. Metric offer flavor all their own. The band presents memorable songs in energetic, jump-worthy packages. While many indie acts try to arrange “singer/songwriter-esque” tunes into a band setting, the members of Metric all add their own distinct stamp to their songs. Singer Emily Haines’ voice seems a natural fit for the synth-y, electronic arrangements and danceable grooves that have become synonymous with the name Metric.
OurStage got ahold of Metric  guitar player Jimmy Shaw to get a little more information about how Metric actually puts together a song. Check out his answers as well as his thoughts about their recent dates and even their work with film composer Howard Shore.
OS: The band has stated that Emily Haines writes “sad” songs that fit with “happy” arrangements by the rest of the band. How, then, does a typical Metric song come about?
JS: Well in that instance it’s usually a song that Emily will write on the piano that is slow or somber, and I will take it, speed it up and “metrify” it. Guitars, dance beats, loudness in general. We have found that juxtaposition to be a major part of Metric’s sound.
OS: We recently spoke with hip hop artist k-os who talked about a certain camaraderie and simultaneous competition between Canadian artists. Do you find that there is a connection/competition there?
JS: If there is a competition, I believe it’s a healthy one. I see it that we all wanna be there at the finish line. None of us will make it if we all don’t achieve greatness, but the trick is we all have to achieve greatness in order to succeed in the goal. I am not so interested in reaching the top of the mountain to find I’m the only one there, only to look down and see all my friends partying at base camp.
OS: This year, you worked with Howard Shore to write a song for the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack. What was this like and how did you merge your songwriting process with Shore’s cinematic writing?
JS: This really was an amazing experience. Howard is a wonderful and incredibly talented man and musician. It actually came very naturally. He played us the scene along with the rough musical ideas that he had. We took those ideas and ran with them, writing a full scale pop song, going back and forth with Howard the whole time. He then took those melodies and implemented them throughout the movie score. For something I was so intimidated by at inception, it was actually quite smoothly achieved.
OS: Metric is a headliner on this year’s Lilith tour with Sarah McLachlan. Why is it important for you to support a tour like Lilith 2010?
JS: I don’t really see it as supporting the tour but just something that made sense at the time. I prefer not to think of things as symbols or gestures. As a great friend of mine once said, its just what happened on a Tuesday¦
OS: Later this year, you’re embarking on a much different tour with Muse. Will this be your first time transitioning from big outdoor festivals to rocking huge coliseums, or is this just business as usual?
JS: The only time we’ve played that type of arena is MSG with the Rolling Stones. That was uh, ok I guess. I’m excited to play all venues, big, small, outdoor, indoor. We have a mission to be the first band to play in space (you hear that Sir Branson? The name is METRIC).
OS: The band spends a lot of time touring between releases. Do you like life on the road, and what is your key to staying sane while touring?
Photo by Justin Broadbent
JS: I think the key is to give up trying to stay sane touring. Why fight the inevitable. Just feel weird. It’s ok, you wont die.
OS: After a smaller EP release and a few singles, is Metric planning to work on a new full-length album soon?
JS: Absolutely. We cant wait!! Aaaand GO!
Catch Metric at Lollapalooza this Saturday August 7th or on the following upcoming tour dates with Muse:
10/11 Cincinnati, OH- US Bank Arena
10/12 Columbus, OH- Schottenstein Center
10/21 Quebec, QC- Colisee Pepsi
10/23 Uniondale, NY- Nassau Coliseum
10/24 Newark, NJ- Prudential Center
10/26 Raleigh, NC- RBC Center
10/27 Charlottesville, VA- John Paul Jones Arena

New Music Biz 101: Facebook (Part 1)

This post will be the first in a mini-series about social media for musicians. Social media, as most musicians know, can be a powerful tool to create consistent engagement with your fan base. Everyone knows they should be using it, but not everyone knows exactly how to do it effectively. This mini-series will offer tips on how to best utilize Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace to assist in creating an actual ROI (return on investment) on your time spent. Lets get started with Facebook!

#1 Create Engaging Content

It’s essential that you constantly do your best to engage your fans. You probably hear this advice a lot, but what does it really mean? It simply means to stay away from posts like Come buy our album, Buy tickets to our show, or Give us three grand to make our next album. Although you can fit in something similar to these posts once in a while, it’s more important that you post something that is going to grab your fans’ interest and get them involved. For example, Did anyone get any good pics at the concert last night? Upload them to Facebook and we’ll share them for everyone to see! Be sure to post great music and cool videos and to write about topics relevant to you and your genre of music. Take lots of pictures at your concerts (including some shots of the audience). Encourage your fans to tag themselves in these shots. (Hint: this is then posted on your fans’ walls, letting all of their friends know that they were tagged.) Also encourage fans to post their own concert shots to your wall, and credit people who take great shots.

#2 Form Strategic Alliances

One way to gain a stronger legitimate fan base is through creating strategic alliances with artists who play within a genre similar to your music. As a fan, it’s easy to be supportive of multiple music groups, so there is no disadvantage to sharing your fan base with others, especially when they find that they love the music you’ve recommended. Network with those who have a similar sound and exchange wall posts to encourage your users to like their page and their users to like your page! As everyone knows, this big game we call the Music Industry is all about networking.

#3 Don’t Forget Your Website

It’s important that you continue to keep up with your web presence by linking back to your website from your Facebook page whenever appropriate. The fact of the matter is that people haven’t adjusted to pulling out their credit cards on Facebook quite yet. It’s not a natural or typical motion for Facebook users to go through. Until it is, continue to send users to your website and have engaging material there for them to browse through.

Hopefully these three little tips are helpful in promoting your music on Facebook. A couple of great resources to learn more about social media are Hypebot and SocialMedia Examiner. Remember, social media is a constantly changing world and best practices change all the time. Do your best to stay up on it all, and remember to add your Facebook link to the links section of your OurStage profile!

Rock 'n' Roll Call: Forever the Fallen

You might not think that hardcore rock and positivity go hand-and-hand, but OurStage artists Forever the Fallen prove that it can be quite a powerful combination. The New Hampshire-based sextet provide a surprisingly hopeful message through screaming vocals and chugging guitars on their brand new full-length album, Narrations.

Musically, the band has consistently relied on the standard contemporary metalcore basics of double-bass pedal, high-pitched vocals and dynamic guitar parts, which made them a perfect fit to open for acts such as Our Last Night and We Came as Romans. On this release, though, they have filled out their sound with complimentary piano parts, gang vocals and programmed beats. “The Transparent” is especially impressive, as frontman Dante Marino’s and guitarist Tom McCallum’s voices soar over refreshingly bright, piano-driven melodies.

As an openly Christian act, Forever the Fallen’s lyrics are often centered around having courage, finding strength and keeping faith. The ten tracks of Narrations play like a concept album, connected through three repetitions of Marino screaming, “I’m still alive/my God, this is not the end/light the beacons, send the signals/let them know that I’m still alive.”

Narrations is now available through several online outlets, including Amazon and iTunes.

Announcing The Winner Of The Andre Harrell Superstar Soul Search

In June, OurStage partnered with Radio One Inc. and media mogul Andre Harrell to find the next big thing in R&B/Soul music with the Andre Harrell Superstar Soul Search Competition. Artists had the opportunity to enter their music in regional channels as well as one national channel for a shot at auditioning in front of Andre Harrell himself. In July, these auditions were held in cities across the country to narrow it down to the final few.  Ten artists were then chosen to compete at the finals, which were held in Atlanta this past weekend. All 10 artists performed in front of Andre Harrell and a panel of celebrity judges including Keith Sweat, Ann Nesby, DJ Eddie F and Dwight Eubanks.

"Mr. Ayers Wooing the Crowd."

After an “exciting and explosive” final competition, Louisiana native Mr. Ayers wowed the audience and judges alike and was chosen as the winner. Mr. Ayers won a career-making grand prize package including a check for $10,000, free online promotion from Radio One and a digital single deal with Andre Harrell Records/Atlantic Records. Stay tuned to the OurStage blog to read firsthand about his experience at the competition in our upcoming interview with Mr. Ayers!

Hip Hop Habit: ANatural

Hip Hop Habit LogoEmbattled is a funny word. With a connotation leading virgin ears to believe that it’s used to describe a subject fighting in at least a two-sided battle, it’s thrown around a lot to describe musicians (often rappers) and their struggles. Using that word to describe someone engaged in conflict is fine, but it gets irritating when the embattled subject has no one to blame but themselves. OurStage rapper ANatural (display name TheRealANatural) was embattled for real for most of his childhood and adolescence, but for no fault of his own. Bouncing around various NYC housing projects with no parents to speak of and seeing his beloved grandmother (also serving as his sole guardian) pass when he was only 10, it would be easy for Joseph Boykin to throw in the towel and let life devour him and his potential. But he didn’t. A strong sense of resilience triumphed the easy way out, and now Boykin finds himself fielding publishing offers and networking with TV personalities and, even more surprisingly, rapping like he’s king of the world.

ANaturalOne such song with this lofty air is Flyest. It may be difficult for purists to make sense of lines like more pictures/ more press/ lookin’ like VIPs/ no guests/ anything I feel I need I’m gonna get if they’re fully aware of his history, but he wouldn’t be the first to separate rhymes and his past. Not everybody has to brood like Eminem. The beats underneath Boykin’s happiness, consisting of a repetitive lubricated synth arpeggio and a smothering helping of ascending chords as accompaniment, all combine to make the young MC sound like he’s walking on cloud nine. Go Getta follows in the same vein with adequate ego trips, but this time the sound is an amalgamation of electronic snippets, 80s hair metal guitar power riffs, and a barrage of kick drum. While his happiness was tinted with conceit in Flyest, that conceit is now pushed to the forefront as he furiously rhymes about being a boss capable of doing it all, but not without giving a little advice along the way: Livin’ large is right/ I suggest it endorse it perfect it/ madness for the method/ roll with the punches/ I’m ready for the next one/ go until the wheels fall off/ this ain’t a test run.

Though enormously subdued in comparison to Go Getta, Boykin keeps the didactic effort up in Is It Me? Opening with morose piano and a slick minor synth riff, the track never really grows past its humble beginnings, unlike the life and times of ANatural. That said, we should probably pay attention to the guidance he gives us. Despite the egoist rhymes in the aforementioned tracks, something tells me that lines like Everywhere he go no desk work/ sleepin’ on the floor while his spine and his neck hurt/ all you can do is be the best you/ best kept secret step into those shoes and keep spittin’ til you see green like Flynn, don’t expect nothing not a thing out of them/ not a chain not a gem/ not a hi not a bye not a grin/ wish them the best whether enemy or friend are really ANatural’s true colors. Homegrown philosophies from the school of hard knocks are the best he’s got, and it’s safe to say they’ve worked for him thus far.

Boykin’s been climbing the rap game ladder since his first LP at the age of 14, and he shows no signs of slowing down. His first major music project, Musical Therapy, has caught the attention of B.E.T.’s DJ Teddy The Deal King who’s agreed to host it, and it was released last Tuesday. Get it while it’s hot!

Metal Monday: Summer Slaughter Tour in Worcester, MA Review

Worcester, Massachusetts, July 31st, 4:00 p.m. The weather outside The Palladium was perfect as I stood in line amongst dozens of other metalheads in anticipation of seven straight hours of metal assaulting my ears. Originally, the bands playing were thought to be only the Summer Slaughter lineup (or, as Cephalic Carnage put it, the Summer’s Laughter tour), but there was a bonus! For the same ticket, show-goers got to wander upstairs to see the bands on the Over the Limit tour, which is headlined by As Blood Runs Black and Oceano.

As I entered the establishment, the first band on the downstairs (main) stage, Vital Remains, was starting. A thoroughly unimpressive set ” the band was pretty lifeless on stage, and the sound was absolutely atrocious. Thankfully, this would not be a recurring theme for the night. Very shortly after Vital Remains closed their set, the shredmasters Animals As Leaders took the stage and put on a performance that absolutely had the best sound of the night, bar none. It was so well mixed that there was no need for plugs (granted, the band has only three members).

Afer checking out the first two bands on the main stage, I wandered upstairs and caught the last of Blind Witness‘s performance ” one that the crowd seemed really into. The next band on the upstairs stage was Thick as Blood. Promptly after Blind Witness’s set finished, the crowd shuffled out and left a mostly empty space for Thick as Blood. There were about four kids in the room that seemed to really enjoy them; everyone else around had a passing interest at best.

The Tony Danza Tapdance ExtravaganzaImmediately following Thick as Blood on the upstairs stage was The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. The crowd flooded back into the room, and you could sense a strong sense of anticipation in the air for Danza’s set. The set unfortunately started off with Josh Travis experiencing some minor technical difficulties; not to worry, though, Jessie Freeland’s ferocious, roaring vocals more than carried the first song. Once the tech was all sorted out, Danza picked it up again and the entire crowd went ballistic. There was more crowd surfing and moshing during this one short set than during all of the previous bands combined. Throughout all of Danza’s performance, the upstairs was a pure madhouse, even when the band wasn’t playing.

Next up was Cephalic Carnage on the downstairs stage “ a hilarious band with pretty terrible sound but a really tight performance. Between songs, they discussed smoking weed, chronic masturbation, drinking booze, watching Star Trek, and other such occupationss. They even opened with the beginning of Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” and a chunk of the Super Mario Brothers theme. A bit of a hokey performance; Veil of Maya would flip that around mighty quickly, storming the stage with an extra tight and crisp set, one that had extremely good sound.

Hard to imagine that the performances could get any better, but The Red Chord were next up and delivered another incredibly tight set to their hometown crowd. Following The Red Chord was All Shall Perish, featuring two new members (on drums and lead guitar). Although an extremely lively set, it was also somewhat hit-or-miss. The new guitarist failed in comparison to Chris Storey, and Eddie Hermida was a bit rough on the vocals during the first song or two, but by the end, they had the machine firing on all cylinders and they finished with a bang.

The next-to-last band of the night was The Faceless, who were unquestionably the best-sounding act of the night. While it’s awfully tough to put a lot of movement and emotion into playing such technical guitar parts, The Faceless always find a way to have great stage presence. It could all stem from Derek “Demon Carcass” Rydquist’s vocals and confidence.

To cap off the night was the legendary Decapitated, who are playing their first US tour since the tragic loss of their former drummer, Vitek, truly one of the world’s greatest metal drummers. Thankfully, Decapitated’s new drummer has enough chops to handle the job. In addition to a new drummer, Decapitated also have a new bassist and vocalist ” they are really a different band but still unbelievable live. Every song the band played was fast, tight, loud, and awesome. Two short songs into the set, Decapitated saw a guest vocalist share the stage with RafaÅ‚ Piotrowski ” Jason Keyser of Skinless fame. There’s not much more that needs to be said about Decapitated’s set other than it was the most brutal, heavy, and energetic performance of the entire night ” a truly perfect headlining act.

Poetic Justice

Poema

Here’s something that happens, well, never. You’re a new band, playing a show, and an A&R guy from a favorite label happens to be there. You give him your demo, he invites you out to Seattle to showcase, and a week later you have a deal. Thus goes the serendipitous back story of Poema, a folk-pop sister duo from Albuquerque signed to Tooth & Nail Records. Growing up in a musical family, sisters Elle and Shealeen Puckett had ample time to perfect their vocal harmonies and learn their instruments (piano and guitar). The results of their woodshedding can be heard on 2 AM, a catchy acoustic pop number that puts the Puckett sisters’ talents on full display. A sugared ditty about first-date recriminations, the song is cheerfully woeful and rings oh-so-true. But even more than the subject matter, we love the lilting vocal harmonies and hooky melody, which call to mind a youthful, more mainstream version of the Dixie Chicks. Poema’s story is just beginning”can’t wait to hear more from this sister act.

Download of the Week: Philadelphia Slick

Premiere Philly underground hip-hop act, Philadelphia Slick, are hitting the prime time with their new EP, Everything’s Game. Their latest offering blends fresh blasts of jazz, funk, hip hop and other genres to create a unique sound mixture that will surely cause even the most resistant head to move to the beat.

Having ranked first 5 times in 3 different channels on OurStage, the group has had quite the successful run. As this week’s Needle in the Haystack, Philadelphia Slick will be giving away “Everything Must Go” off their new album. Keep an eye out for more from them throughout the week!