How The West Was Won

Wes Kirkpatrick

Wes Kirkpatrick may be a new transplant on the Chicago music scene, but his acoustic, earthy rock music has already taken root. The Colorado native hunkered down in Minneapolis in 2009 to start recording his first solo record, taking his time to make sure it was done right. Rusty, dusty rock lovers will like the results. Home takes off at a good driving speed, pushed along by punchy strums, claps, finger snaps and reedy harmonies. The rippling piano line on Suspicion is a triumphant little hook that’s impossible to forget, while Opportunity stacks Kirkpatrick’s vocals to create layered, emotive balladry. Our favorite is Shoot You Down, where guitars get plugged for minor key stabs and drums rollick and roll. All grit and tumbleweeds, Kirkpatrick builds the song using the wild midwest for mortar. It’s great stuff, no matter what side of the Mississippi you hang your hat on.

GuacaMusic: Cumbia

What happens when you mix a bamboo flute with percussion instruments, some drums and a touch of maracas?

That’s easy, you get some great cumbia!

Considered by many as the queen of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, cumbia is a musical style that originated in Colombia around the eighteenth century as a celebration of the union of African and indigenous people. Its name comes from the African word “cumbé” that means fun or party, two adjectives that really describe how incredibly exciting cumbia can be.

As with many other popular Latin music styles, cumbia began as folklore and evolved into a more modern type of instrumentation. Today, this type of music is a staple in many high profile clubs in Colombia, and even in the rest of Latin America and the United States.

Never heard of it?

Do not worry. Here on OurStage, we have some phenomenal cumbia artists that will make you wonder why you weren’t playing or dancing to this beat before. We are particularly fond of two awesome OurStage cumbia masters: Vilma Diaz, a talented singer from Medellí­n, Colombia, and Angel, an awesome interpreter of tropical cumbia.

At the young age of 20, Vilma Diaz was discovered by a record label company and was offered a recording contract. The quality and power of her voice pushed her to become the lead voice of La Sonora Dinamita, an internationally recognized tropical band. As part of La Sonora, Vilma recorded the song “Escandalo”, a classic tropical hit that earned her the title of “La Diva de la Cumbia”.

When you hear Vilma’s voice, you immediately understand why they call her cumbia’s diva. Thanks to her charisma and spectacular voice, she has been named honorary citizen of several cities around the globe. She has performed for relevant political figures such as the King of Spain and El Salvador’s former president Alfredo Cristiani.

La Diva is also the one who leads us to Angel, another OurStage Cumbia virtuoso. Angel began his career as a percussionist. He was soon discovered by the Artistic Director of La Sonora Dinamita, who gave him the opportunity to sing back up vocals for the Diva Vilma Diaz. Once inside La Sonora, Angel’s charm, energy and enthusiastic dancing earned him the nickname “The Caribbean Hurricane”. As Angel writes in his OurStage profile, he was always taking everyone by storm, obtaining ovations from all audiences.

If you want to see what the “Hurricane” nickname is all about, go to Angel’s OurStage profile and listen to the tropical cumbia “No Me Digas Que No“. Play this song for a minute and you’ll experience a rush of energy like no other you’ve felt before, but most importantly, you’ll realize why cumbia is such a strong symbol of cultural identity for any Colombian living abroad. Sing along, dance to it and experience why, when dancing cumbia, we are all Colombianos, and no regional, economic or social differences exist among us.

¡Viva Colombia! ¡Viva la cumbia!

Nicki Minaj: We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

It’s hard to believe the “Queen of Mixtapes” turned Queen of Features can’t perceive her own buzz. If you’re tuned in to a hip hop station, chances are good that you’ll hear Nicki Minaj on at least three songs in a row. She’s currently featured on ten songs in heavy rotation, including “My Chick Bad” with Ludacris, “Bottoms Up” with Trey Songz, and “Get It All” with Sean Garrett.

Featured on over thirty tracks this year with artists ranging from Gucci Mane to Christina Aguilera, Minaj has demonstrated remarkable versatility without ever releasing an album. Her own single, “Your Love” soared to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #7 on the Hot R&B/ Hip Hop chart after the previously discarded track was leaked in June.

Credit: Howard Huang (Courtesy of Universal Motown)

What’s the appeal? Her dynamic deliveries, quirky characters, and cartoon-like voices lend a theatrical element to her rhymes that haven’t been seen from a female emcee. She’s unapologetic about her sexuality, confident in her abilities, and unyielding in her quest for super-stardom. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s down with the reigning cool kids of hip hop, signing with Lil Wayne’s, Young Money imprint in 2009. Her verse on Young Money’s hugely successful single, “Bedrock” puts her at the center of the crew’s triumphant takeover as she held her own alongside hip hop’s current golden child, Drake. She nabbed two BET Awards this year including “Best New Artist”, and is nominated for an MTV VMA for her Hype Williams-directed video, “Massive Attack.” Still, the self-proclaimed “Barbie doll” says fans haven’t even tasted what she plans to serve up on her first, full-length album, Pink Friday, due out November 23.

According to Nicki, and her alter egos, she hasn’t even scratched the surface of her success.

-Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a music and pop culture writer.

Q&A With Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

In the true spirit of indie music, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are winning fans over one show at a time with their organic sound,  full of improvisation and unique surprises at every turn. Unlike the typical indie pop band, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ 10 official members all crowd the stage with whatever instrument, drum or object they can play or beat on. The result is music brimming with emotion, so it’s no surprise the band is staying busy on the summer festival circuit as well as earning placements in TV commercials and film trailers (such for the Ford Fiesta as well as the trailer for the movie Cyrus). Guitarist and vocalist Christian Letts got in touch with OurStage to offer his own take on the band’s many projects.

OS: So, who is Edward Sharpe?

CL: Edward Sharpe is everybody. Originally he was a character in a novel Alex was writing. In the book, he was a character that was sent from heaven to save the world, but he keeps getting distracted and falling in love with girls along the way. He doesn’t ever get around to doing it. I don’t think the novel’s even finished. It’s something that Alex has been working on for years and years.

OS: When performing Home live, there’s almost always a different monologue toward the end of the song. Do you determine these topics before you go onstage, or is it strictly improv?

CL: Definitely not. It’s not just even Home. Every song we play is different every night. We rarely play anything the same twice. It makes it really fun to play, you don’t ever really get bored of playing songs. Sometimes people ask us about that. Does it get monotonous playing the same song over and over again? It actually really doesn’t because of that. It’s really free flowing, you know? We really never know what’s going to happen in that breakdown. We just kind of follow along, and we ride it out, you know?

OS: Yeah it definitely seems like you’re all usually just going with the flow and having fun. Was there a specific time onstage that you really noticed was set apart from the rest?

CL: There are moments all the time that feel different, and like we’re growing as a band. We’re getting better and better at playing with each other. It’s always been really good, and it’s cool that it keeps going. We’re always pushing each other to become a better unit. It’s not even really pushing. It just naturally happens with us. Even at acoustic radio shows we do, it’s really cool to see an acoustic version of things grow. It’s really beautiful. I’ll be like Holy shit man, this is great tonight, and I thought it was great before. It happens a lot, but it’s hard to pinpoint one time though because there’s been a bunch of them.

OS: So, it’s tough to pick out just one because you guys just keep getting better and better?

CL: Definitely, it’s great man. It just keeps growing. Sometimes there are these happy accidents that happen, where the whole band will cut out. Well, there was one point I remember in Williamsburg. On one song, the band dropped out and it was just us singing one part. It was so hypnotic even when I was singing, I just really felt like I was meditating. We all talk about how special that felt. We’ve added that to how we play the song, and it’s even changed more since then. So that’s one moment I really remember.

OS: You released some vinyl’s surrounding Up From Below last year, which had limited pressings. What was the purpose of these releases?

CL: People like collecting vinyl. We’ve actually had to keep ordering more. I really like listening to the album on vinyl, because there’s something really special about the way it sounds. Also, we recorded the takes in analog and everything. It’s just a different experience than on the CD.

OS: Last year you released a couple of music videos from a 12-part musical, right?

CL: Yeah, we’re trying to eventually finish a video, or short film basically, for each song on the album, and they’ll all go together and make sense in the end. Another one should be coming up pretty soon, but I don’t really know how long it’s going to take. But, eventually it will all be done.

OS: Was there any sort of inspiration for the plot or the visuals in these short films?

CL: Alex had this idea, and we’re all just like Wow, that’s fucking great. We were all at his friend’s house and just started brainstorming and kicking around things. We’re really fortunate to have a bunch of very talented friends around us that are great at whatever it is they do. It all kind of stayed within the family of  buddies getting together and shooting stuff. You don’t know how everything is going to be when it’s done. You’re there when it’s being shot, but when it was finished, we all got together and watched the first video. We were like Holy shit, this looks so good!

OS: You guys are a big festival band during the summers, but there’s a big difference between club and festival dates. So, how does the connection with the crowd differ between these?

CL: Well, it changes from festival to festival too. It’s not something you force. However the experience is, you just sort of let it happen. Whenever you try to force anything, it doesn’t feel very natural. We’ve had festivals where I’ve been like God, this whole crowd, I feel like we’re all in this one unit right now.  I remember early on, when I was in other bands, we’d try to force a connection. For this one, it’s not something I ever feel like I’m trying to force. It feels like I’m in the ocean rolling with it. Sometimes there’re really calm shows, even at venues. At clubs there will be mellow shows. There are other ones where it’s just so hyped, and the sweatiest shit and walls are dripping with water because everyone is sweating. I really like the sweaty nights man, they’re a lot of fun. Nothing is really predetermined before going onstage, other than to just have fun. One thing we agree on is to just enjoy ourselves.

OS: So, do you find yourselves anywhere in particular after shows when you’re just kind of hanging out?

CL: We’ll go out to a bar afterward and have a couple drinks maybe. Sometimes, we’ll just go back to the bus and chill and jam. There are so many people. It’s funny. We’ll all wander off in different directions and somehow usually end up at the same place. Everybody just sort of trickles in. It’s really interesting actually. How did they know we were here? With 10 people, if you want to do something, sometimes you can’t wait for everyone to rally. Otherwise you’re going to miss out.

End your summer with a Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros as they close of their festival circuit/ fall tour!

9/1- Wow Hall, Eugene, OR

9/2- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR

9/3- Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR

9/4- Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle, WA

9/25- Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Columbia, MD

10/7- Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ

10/9- Warehouse Live, Houston, TX

10/10- Austin City Limites Festival, Austin, TX

10/11- The Collective, Shreveport, LA

10/12- The Lyric Oxford, Oxford, MS

Rock 'n' Roll Call: inPassing

Any unsigned band would be proud to sell 13,000 records on their own. Orlando pop-rockers inPassing are especially proud, though, because they sold all of them by chatting up potential fans on the streets, in shopping malls, outside clubs and at festivals.

In 2008, the band released Breathing in the Ash, a five-song EP produced by James Paul Wisner (Dashboard Confessional, Paramore). Ash, which features singles “Say to Me” and “Back Down,” is upbeat, catchy and radio-ready. Boasting anthemic choruses filled with tasteful harmonies and no-frills guitar work, the EP recalls the familiar sounds of Mayday Parade, The Academy Is… and Jimmy Eat World. inPassing’s music is simply no-gimmicks, polished pop rock, and is sure to please fans of all ages.

Though their name may suggest otherwise, inPassing are not about to fade away. They have been performers on the Vans Warped Tour and marked them as a success story from “The Absolute 100,” their list of favorite lesser known bands. inPassing also received song placement in The Real World: Cancun in the summer of 2009 and appeared in a television commercial on the CW.

Thanks to fan funding on Kickstarter, the band  raised over $10,000 to record their follow up to Ash, titled Then, Now, Always, which will be released later this year. Check out an OurStage-exclusive song from the new album, “Lost Your Faith” in the player below, along with two tracks from Breathing in the Ash!

Hip Hop Habit: Psalm One

Chicago and rap music have gotten along pretty well over the past decade. Common, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco have all done their part to bring eclectic sounds and fill hip hop’s glaring midwestern void. But one element is still missing, the female voice. That job is Psalm One‘s for the undertaking. Representing the Windy City’s fabled south side, you might expect her to have followed the same musical path the rest of the area’s escapees did. You would be wrong, because true to her words, Psalm is but a very different sister. For starters, she has no interest rapping in the name of furthering female emcees. She doesn’t want to be your favorite female rapper”she just wants to be your favorite. Period. Even more surprisingly, Psalm has a degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois. I’ll give you five bucks if you can name me another chemist-by-day/rapper-by-night artist. And no, Cut Chemist does not count.

Let Me Hear opens with a familiar riff, Psalm’s pillow-like tone finding middle ground between the warbled snaking bass and churning ethereal feedback.  Simply put, the jam is flat out sex music. Arousing lines from the repetitious opening If the rhythm feels good to you baby let me hear you say uh¦uh to I’m positioned to please/ so let me put your little disposition at ease have the emcee and her listeners hot and bothered before the halfway point. True to genre form, the rhythm and beat remain constantly slow and sultry throughout.

Chicago Based Rapper Psalm OneWhen our heroine steps out of the bedroom in Woman at Work, the vixen image gives way to that of a burgeoning artist busy moving on up. Stressed from the start, a sonic exhale comes in the form of an overcast beat built on shuffle percussion and accented with a timidly wandering lead guitar. Psalm chronicles herself on top and breaks down the song writing process in the form of an extended cooking metaphor, from doing the dishes and pre prep to feelin’ it and peelin’ it. And, she’s more than happy to let you know she has yet to reach the top of her game”we cookin’ up a work of success/ put your fork down honey/ the meat ain’t done yet. While the food rhymes are fun, the song’s most nourishing line ironically is completely devoid of tasty connotations; Instructions for upward mobility like Dreamin’ is a block/ but doin’ is a city/ gettin’ is a county/ and rulin’ is a universe never sounded this simple before, and prove that Psalm possesses the essential understanding that there’s more to success than desire. The kick start comes as Psalm undresses her core message in the end, imploring open ears to understand that making it takes all you’ve got and then some: You gotta put your foot in it/ your queens, pawns and your rooks in it.

Being compared to Lauryn Hill is no small feat. Neither is signing to Rhymesayers. Through this mutually beneficial acquisition she’s had the opportunity to share the stage with Atmosphere, Del The Funky Homosapien, Camp Lo, Heiroglyphics and many more leaders in the innovative rap vein. With mentors like that, up is really the only way she can go. Player and comments below, you know what to do next!

Metal Monday: Q&A with Cephalic Carnage

Self-described rocky mountain hydro grind veterans Cephalic Carnage are fresh off a spot on this year’s Summer Slaughter Tour, about to release their sixth studio album, Misled By Certainty and head overseas for another European tour.  It doesn’t sound like they’ve got time to catch their breath really, but we still managed to talk with guitarist Steve Goldberg to see how things were going between tours and to ask about the new album:

MtD: First off, how was Summer Slaughter this year?

CC: Pretty awesome man, the shows have been really good.   The downsides are the long days and long drives.  You don’t get much personal time, but the shows have been awesome.

MtD: Your stage antics are a lot different than the other bands on the Summer Slaughter, do you think the crowds receive them well?

cephalic carnageCC: Yeah, I think they do. We have a bit more of a comedy factor in the live setting, like funny samples and stuff like that going on. So yeah, we think it’s received pretty well.

MtD: So, how are the crowds receiving the new songs from Misled By Certainty?

CC: It’s going over good too.  Not really getting the same pits as we did with the old stuff, but everyone’s really pumped about it and absorbing it and we’ve been getting really positive reactions”you know, loud cheers and everything.

MtD: Can you give us a little insight to Misled By Certainty, and how you got the name for it?

CC: Oh, the title can pretty much relate to anything.  Like, an example would be that we put about $2,000 into our van and were certain things would be good and we were set” but sure enough we blew a transmission first week into it. So it’s just kinda scenarios like that, never count your chickens before they hatch.

MtD: So, how about the first single, Abraxas of Filth, what exactly is an Abraxas?

CC: [Talking to someone else in the band] What does Abraxas mean?

It’s like an ancient God, and apparently he hasn’t bathed in a while, so he’s pretty filthy.

Misled By CertaintyMtD: Now, with the new album there was a preorder contest where the grand prize is a vaporizer, how did this idea come about?

CC: There’s this place called Silver Surfer out in Colorado who kinda sponsored us as a band, and we just wanted to have some kinda cool promotion for a grand prize and they were kind enough to donate to the cause.  Whomever wins that should be pretty happy because those things rule.

MtD: So, it’s no secret that you guys are pro-marijuana; do you ever catch any grief about it on tour?

CC: Nah, no issues.  Maybe some like, podunk country cop you know, but we never really get any flack about it.  People these days tend to be pretty pro-pot.

MtD: Now that you’re done with Summer Slaughter, you’re off to Europe to headline a tourwhat are you most excited about being back in Europe for?

CC: Oh man, just the good times over there.  Europe’s the best place to tour.  Get back over there with our buddies Psycroptic and just looking forward to hanging out, playing some shows, and having fun.

MtD: You’re also on that tour in Europe with Ion Dissonance”is it your first full tour with them?

CC: Nah, the first summer slaughter tour four years ago actually.  There’s also this band called Our Penance, and I’ve heard their songs on the Internet actually, and they’re pretty ridiculously brutal so I’m excited to check them out.  The other band’s Discarnate, whom I haven’t heard yet.

Misled By Certainty drops on August 31th on Relapse Records” and you’d be a fool not to buy it (get it here).   The tracks posted to the band’s MySpace page promise more of the same great Cephalic Carnage from Xenosapien and Anomalies”so, we’re all in for a treat.  If you happen to be located in Europe, you’d also do well by your ears to check out their tour with Psycroptic, Ion Dissonance and more.

Just Dance

Moving Picture Show

There are times, after one too many cups of coffee or a heated exchange, when your body gets hot, your blood starts buzzing and you feel like if you don’t move, like RIGHT NOW, you may explode into million pieces. This is exactly the sort of adrenaline rush that courses through the music of L.A.’s Moving Picture Show. But instead of urging you to jump out of your skin or throw a punch, these guys want you to dance it out. Resistance is futile, especially if you’re starting with the tangled guitars and synth spasms of Perfect World. Just try and keep your Converse off the dance floor. Games Without Frontiers is sexy, stylized dance rock that lurches and struts, while Control Freak is dapper, subversive and drenched in minor key dread. Irresistibly kinetic, utterly cool, Moving Picture Show is destined to be a dance party staple. Put them on, turn up the volume and let them rock that body.

Download of the Week: The Black Rabbits

This week’s Needle in the Haystack artist are the perfect mix of classic and alternative rock. Originally hailing from Orlando, Florida and now stationed in North Carolina, The Black Rabbits are quickly making strides and growing in popularity.  The band has received some great news coverage including features in Connections and CrankIt Magazine, Orlando Weekly, Miami New Times, and Fox News. The band has recently finished up an east coast tour and recorded their debut EP, which was produced by some big players including Stan Lynch (producer for the Eagles and drummer for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) and Billy Chapin of Chapin Music Group. The band’s unique but approachable sound makes them an exciting artist to feature.

Download their track “Emotion” below and let us know what you think. There will be more Black Rabbits to come this week, so stay tuned!

Scene & Heard: Denver, CO

After heading through major metropolitan areas and cities with huge geographic boundaries, I’d like to share with you this week a market that is quite literally a breath of fresh air. Unlike the booming east coast rock scenes and the Midwestern indie and hip-hop markets, Denver, CO, fits the folk/country stereotype with which it has been cast. The Rocky Mountains and the historic frontier paint vivid pictures for narrative folk tunes and clawhammer-based campfire songs. It’s such a clear vibe that folk artists often pay homage to Denver in their songs. The most notable of these artists was John Denver, who advocated for the environment, scene and general vibes of Denver in his widely known folk/Americana music.

Denver’s reputation doesn’t end there. When the city’s folk clubs hosted Bob Dylan and Judy Collins early in their careers, the publicity covering the music scene subsequently picked up momentum. Artists like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix frequented Denver venues when they started to gain popularity. The local jazz history is quite strong as well and has lasted into the modern jazz era. Other genres that have found their place here over the years have been grunge (sticking with the true Seattle aesthetic), heavy metal, jam-band and punk rock.

Denver contains a lot of major venues that cater to huge touring acts throughout the year. The Ogden Theatre‘s upcoming calendar contains bands like The Hold Steady, Thrice and Minus the Bear. The Filmore Auditorium often contains even bigger shows with upcoming sets from Silversun Pickups, Band of Horses and Black Label Society.

Going a little smaller, though, you’ll find clubs like The Mercury Café. This organic, alternative energy-powered café houses folk, jazz and poetry shows and offers a renowned menu of organic food. For another small venue that caters more to rock acts, we’ll turn to OurStage act Hello Kavita. While they have been seen on the huge stage at The Ogden, Hello Kavita also credits the Hi-Dive with being a standard Denver club for them. The Hi-Dive fits better with the indie/rock and Americana aesthetic.

[Denver] is a very communal scene, so a lot of us play in different bands, comments drummer Leor Manelis. Limiting yourself to playing with only a few people seems antithetical to being a musician. He recommends that a visitor check out The Westword, Denver’s go-to arts publication. It’s hard to go wrong”you have the Meadowlark, the Hi-Dive, Larimer Lounge, the Gothic and Bluebird

Hello Kavita fuses folk/pop with driving indie rock. Their catchy melodies and clear moods catch a listener’s ear almost immediately. The band’s music has been featured in numerous indie films and local licensing deals. They’ve even secured slots at major local venues like The Ogden. They’ve also frequented the OurStage charts with several Top Ten badges.

Make sure you check out their profile to stay tuned for their upcoming shows. If you’re heading to Denver, remember Manelis’s promise that the music of Denver will allow for one hell of a night.