Tag Archives: Scene Report

Scene Report: Folk and Americana in Baton Rouge

Clay-Parker-&-Jodi-James-600

Clay Parker and Jodi James

Any reliable definition of Baton Rouge’s local independent music scene first begins with a discussion of what it is not. Thanks to surrounding cities like New Orleans and Lafayette, whose musical identities have not only been established but fully branded, Baton Rouge musicians often find themselves comparing their scene to the more famous ones that surround it. As Louisiana’s state capital (and home to flagship Louisiana State University), Baton Rouge, with just over 200,000 residents, is primarily a college town given over to football, tailgating, and the kind of rowdy sportsmanship that goes with both. But that hasn’t stopped a growing number of invested community members who love roots music from creating their own world.

Thanks to its wealth of emerging talent, Baton Rouge’s independent music scene has started to truly define itself over the course of the last 10 years. It’s transformed from one rife with cover bands to a place where exciting original music is being made in folk pop, indie rock, Americana, and funk. As Ben Herrington, multi-instrumentalist for chamber folk band Minos the Saint, says, “There’s actually a benefit to having less of a strong identity [than neighboring cities], because it makes it easier for people to start from scratch creatively and sort of do whatever they desire to do.”

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Scene Report: Folk in Buenos Aires

Open Folk
Open Folk Night, Tuesday folk nights organized by Fede Petro and Martin Grossman.

In the residential architecture of Buenos Aires, many of the most intriguing buildings are invisible to passersby, hidden down dimly lit alleyways. The Piso Horizontal (“horizontal floors,” or PH for short) are perfectly suited for the crowded city blocks that they divide, making the most of every square meter of space for those that dwell within them. They also make the perfect venues for live music—long, rectangular rooms with tall ceilings (natural hall acoustics) and towering French doors that swing open to leafy patios, where attendees can gather as members of a mutual musical appreciation society to smoke cigarettes and chat without fear of disturbing the artists performing inside.

However, if the noise of a Black Sabbath cover band bleeds through the adjacent wall until 3 a.m., the neighbors might call the cops, and the game would be up. But maybe, if the music was too lovely, and the voices too compelling, the disgruntled neighbors would slowly put down their phones, transfixed, and everyone within earshot could continue to enjoy the show.

Enter the folk musicians of Buenos Aires—an extensive array of performers with influences spanning the genre, from traditional Argentine folklore (pronounced folk-lo-ray) artists such as Atahualpa Yupanqui, Eduardo Falu, Jose Larralde and Lena Valladares to the contemporary folk of North America. The most recent revival seemingly began with fingerstyle guitarist Mariano Rodriguez and psych-folk rockers Los Alamos, continuing to grow with increasing momentum over the last decade. This impressive rise has finally culminated with a batch of artists so fiercely supportive and collaborative that familial metaphors are all but inescapable.

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Scene Report: Rock in Cleveland, Ohio

Grog Shop
Grog Shop, prominent venue in Cleveland’s scene. Photo by Ken Blaze

My introduction to the Cleveland rock scene came over hot dogs and cheap beer, and was shepherded by scene torchbearer Sean Kilbane. A true member of the rock ‘n’ roll proletariat, Kilbane was the kind of club owner who made sure that the bands who played his little hot dog restaurant/rock club—The Happy Dog—were fed, had enough to drink and, most importantly, got paid. Sean wanted bands to come through his town. He wanted his bar to become a destination for bands who weren’t big enough to headline local flagships like The Grog Shop or Beachland Ballroom, but still wanted to get in the van and hit the road. He gave the broke and hungry a good reason to keep coming to Cleveland, and through him I found a rock scene that has been thriving under the radar, just off the frigid coast of Lake Eerie.

Cleveland
Photo by Ken Blaze

 

recent article in Cleveland Scene bemoaned the fact that many bands have been foregoing a night in the historical mecca of rock for greener pastures in nearby cities that have stronger relationships with booking behemoths LiveNation and AEG. That idea, coupled with the proliferation of an indie touring circuit focused on major markets like New York, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles and Seattle, means that certain cities that were once cornerstones of the national rock ’n’ roll scene—Cleveland, Detroit, Boston—have been left by the wayside.

Nonetheless, the Forest City is full of endearing, genre-blending guitar bands. Coupled with prominent scenesters, bars and venues, record stores and the like, Cleveland in 2016 is as endearing a rock ’n’ roll scene as any in the country.

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Scene Report: Rock in Bangkok, Thailand

Rock in Bangkok, Thailand

“It’s unpredictable. You never know when the police are going to turn up and then the party’s over.” — Tokin Teekanun

It’s not hard to find live music in Bangkok. From hotel lobbies and beer gardens to the tourist-choked Khao San Road, an acoustic duo performing questionable ’90s covers is never too far out of earshot. But if you want the good stuff, you need to look a little deeper. Even if the city’s nightlife remains in a state of constant flux, its musical output has never been so vibrant. The closure in recent years of live music hotspots like Sonic, Cosmic Cafe, and Harmonica left a sizable hole that has been filled by a new wave of small venues looking to blur the lines between art, music, drinking, and community.

Thanks to the air-conditioned ease of the BTS Skytrain, much of Bangkok’s nightlife still centers on Sukhumvit Road, especially the cosmopolitan Thonglor and Ekkamai neighborhoods. But pockets of cool can be found all over, from the makeshift house bars of Lad Phrao and the retro night markets of Chatuchak in the city’s north to the cultural regeneration taking over the riverside and Chinatown. The swelling number of small bars and performance spaces showcase what is ultimately a small but tight-knit community, and one that’s well worth exploring on any given night.

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