Wednesday, October 26, 2016

[PHOTOS] Mick Jenkins at Thalia Hall in Chicago


Mick Jenkins performed this past Thursday at Thalia Hall in Chicago, which was part of the Red Bull Sounds Select Tour. "Spread Love" is his new single; you can listen here. Please enjoy these photos by Amanda Koellner.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Flirting with Danger: A Conversation with July Talk


Written by Elisa Regulski

It’s Saturday. It’s SATURDAY.

If you repeat anything long enough, it starts to feel true.

This hypnotizing mantra is how July Talk geared up for an 11:30 AM Sunday set at this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. Well, that, and a shot or two of whiskey.

Leaving bite marks on the microphone cables and puddles of sweat on the stage, July Talk turned that languid Sunday morning into a surreal, surging nightclub. Touring extensively with their latest album, Touch, this Canadian alt-rock band rides on pure adrenaline. Comprised of singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, bassist Josh Warburton, guitarist Ian Docherty, and drummer Danny Miles, July Talk shot to critical acclaim in 2015 with their Juno award for Alternative Album of the Year.

July Talk’s latest single “Push and Pull” will definitely wedge itself into your brain, but it’s ultimately their live shows that have catapulted them into the public’s eye. Their impulsive decisions flirt with danger and dance with seduction. Often stealing hats, shoes, and sparkly things, Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis spiral into a frenzied abandon. But don’t shudder over their kleptomaniac tendencies. They always give everything back.

Well, most of the time.

While chatting in the abrasive Texas heat on the second Sunday of ACL, Leah and Peter shared some of the band’s most outrageous stories.

“I had this idea that I wanted all of the bras on stage.” Leah said. “Listen--I know how hard it is to find a good bra. I promise I will give these all back to you.”

While Leah had the best intentions, it became pretty clear that the horde of people watching their show didn’t. Reaching a maddening state of mob-mentality, the revved up concertgoers snatched the bras in sheer bliss. Even Leah lost her favorite bra that night (I hurt for you, girl).

At least underwire doesn’t cost $300. During a show in Vancouver, smart phones became the object of desire.

“Leah just goes and snatches all these phones.” Peter remembered, “She ended up with four phones.”

As the selfies and videos rolled, a crowd surfer floated to the edge of the stage and lost a shoe on the ride down. Ready to return everything at the end of the set, Leah put all of the phones inside the shoe and placed it on top of an amp.

In a whirlwind of erratic energy, the crowd surfer saw his shoe, grabbed it, and bolted off.

“[He] probably puts the shoe on, realizes there’s phones in it, and then goes ‘I’m a fuckin’ millionaire man!’” Peter Dreimanis’ arms were waving, reliving the scene.

Stomachs sank and the energy dropped. July Talk owed a lot of people a bunch of money.

Without missing a beat, their tour manager jumped on the “Find My iPhone” app and tracked the drunken reveler down. Using elements of persuasion (and maybe a few vague threats) the phones returned to their respected pockets and purses.

Just like their live shows, the band’s songwriting seems to be a no-holds-barred kind of setting. Impulses fly, ideas spark, and, ultimately, songs are made. Even genre barriers can’t hold back July Talk’s songwriting style. Their first songs ranched from boot-stompin’ country to swirly psychedelic tunes.

“We kind of just allowed ourselves to do what we wanted.” Peter said, “Which was super liberating, and when we look back at it, it’s kind of naive”

No matter what they write, though, you’ll always be able to pinpoint their sound. Peter Dreimanis’ gritty, raw voice has the same unaltered, sandpaper-like quality of a Leonard Cohen ballad while Leah Fay’s floating pop soprano would melt effortlessly into a Jenny Lewis/Angel Olsen duet. When you combine those two voices, there’s a distinctly unique series of vibrations that can only be called “July Talk.”

“I don’t think any of us could write a July Talk song by ourselves.” Leah said, “The whole point is that everyone gets their fingers wet in it.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

[PHOTOS + WORDS] Tegan and Sara + Torres at The Pageant in St. Louis


"We talk about this venue and street," Tegan said from The Pageant's stage on Saturday evening.

Of course, if you live in St. Louis, you know the street is Delmar. And you might also know that it took a while for Tegan and Sara to build their audience to reach the status of a band playing The Pageant.

"It took us seven years to get a bus," Tegan continued. "And now every time the driver hits the brakes, there I am in my bunk with a heating pad thinking, this is it, we're going to be a Yahoo! News story. Yes, I sleep with a heating pad." Sara also chimed in about a time, before the luxury of a touring bus, when she stole a Snickers bar at a gas station while on acid.

Funny stuff.

The first time I saw Tegan and Sara was in 2000 in Virginia Beach, when they opened for Neil Young and The Pretenders. Two acoustic guitars, audience still filing in...that was a long time ago.

And now here they are. Their sound is almost exclusively pop, a genre they execute rather well, even though Tegan admitted that they still get requests to make another album like The Con.

"But why do that," Tegan said. "The Con still exists."

Good point.

Whatever you want to call the Canadian duo, that's fine. Pop, folk -- I don't care. Their show on Saturday at The Pageant was a thrill, from the opening notes of "Back in Your Head" to the set-closing "Closer," a mega hit a few years ago. The encore closed with "Stop Desire," from this year's Love You To Death.

Their time is now, and their bus should keep rolling for years to come.

Please enjoy these photos by Louis Kwok.



Friday, October 21, 2016

New Music Friday | "Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn"

Photo by Joe O'Toole
Welcome to "New Music Friday" here at Speakers in Code. We're going to attempt to share 10 "new" songs each week. They are either recently released songs, or songs that are new to us. New is a funny word, you know.

Enjoy, and get out this weekend and see some shows. Many of these bands/artists are on tour now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

[INTERVIEW] Pegi Young on 30 Years of Bridge School Benefit Concerts: "This is my life's work, and it has to survive."

Pegi Young | Photo by Tom Bejgrowicz

As we're winding down our twenty-minute chat over the phone, Pegi Young pauses and, calmly, gets to the heart of the matter.

"This is my life's work, and it has to survive," she tells me. "It's too important, and it's made a huge difference in so many people's lives."

Young is speaking about the Bridge School, an organization co-founded by Young herself. Its mission "is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication and assistive technology applications and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies."

This weekend is one of the School's biggest fundraisers, and it's a special one: the 30th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.

The lineup, as usual, is terrific: Neil Young + Promise of the Real, Metallica, Roger Waters, Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, My Morning Jacket, Norah Jones, Cage The Elephant, and Nils Lofgren will perform. All proceeds directly benefit the operations of The Bridge School.

Also, as usual, the benefit concert will be all acoustic, challenging bands like Metallica and My Morning Jacket to alter their normal set.

"We have made a couple of exceptions over the years," Young admits. "We let John Lee Hooker play electric. We're not going to tell John Lee Hooker he can't play electric. (laughs) But very, very, very few (exceptions). Like Metallica, they come  -- I think this will be their third time playing -- and play acoustic, and they get it, you know? And they still put on a powerhouse show, as have so many others like Green Day, The Who, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters -- a lot of bands you just don't see playing acoustic. It's a beautiful thing."

Also beautiful is the stage's backdrop, which features students of the Bridge School sitting behind the musicians, enjoying the show.

"It's a wonderful experience," Young says. "Very heartwarming to have the kids on the stage -- a constant reminder of why you're there. Why the audience is there, why the musicians are there -- they are the stars of the show, and everybody gets that."

Here's the rest of my conversation with Pegi Young.

So, 30 years of Bridge School Benefit Concerts. How does it feel?

I don't want to say old, but certainly older than the 30-whatever-year-old that I was when this whole thing got started. But, you know, I look at it with a great deal of satisfaction. It's kind of amazing that the school has not only sustained itself for all these years by way of the concert, of course, but how it's grown and evolved.

We started with the four parent-placed kids, very humbled beginnings, and it has just grown to have a global impact. Obviously, looking at the need for the endowment, to keep the school going, that's been the big focus for us, and it has been for some time. And as time marches on, it's becoming more of a real need that needs our attention.

Tell me more about the endowment. What's your approach to seeing that succeeding?

Well, it's sort of a multi-pronged approach, actually, just looking straight ahead at the concert coming up, there's an opportunity for  people to participate in the endowment campaign. You can go to the Bridge web site and look at the VIP donor section.

There are also general ways of helping us -- everything from putting us in your will to other alternatives, and certainly cash is always welcome, and we've done pretty well. And when I say cash, I mean cash at all levels. A big part of our donor pool is made up of fans of Neil (Young) in particular, but maybe some other artists as well, and those donations may be whatever -- whatever they can afford. We've received two dollars in the mail. We value the fan base greatly, they've been constant supporters since the beginning, and I would never want them to feel that somehow what they can afford is not meaningful. We do have a lofty goal -- we're trying to raise around 40 million dollars -- and there are a variety of ways for people to help support the endowment.

You mentioned the global impact. How have you seen that?

It's been quite amazing. We have our international teacher-in-residence program, which right now I think we're on our 12th year of running that program -- and that is an application process and it's a scholarship program. And a teacher professional from a developing country comes and works and lives alongside the Bridge School staff and students, and one of the criteria for them to come to Bridge and receive this scholarship is that they have a support system in place when they return. So that they can then begin to implement Bridge School methodologies and technologies when they return.

In fact, we just had a -- I didn't go, but it was up in Toronto -- there was an international society for the augmentative and alternative communications community, and I believe at least eight of our teachers and residents were there. And they're representing Poland and Singapore and Mexico and South Africa and India...South Korea. And when we do the reciprocal visit, and I must say I am using the royal "we" here, because all I see are pictures when the team returns, but we hold conferences and hold workshops and work with the teams to troubleshoot what issues they might be encountering when they return to their home countries. Certain areas are just more remote than others -- they don't have access to some of the benefits we have from being so close to Silicon Valley.

And of course our web site -- it's one of our most essential means of reaching out to the global community. We have the Building Bridges Camp, which is not restricted to students who have attended Bridge School, and (it's there) for either when the kids are ready or when the parents are ready (laughs). Sometimes it's a little of both. (laughing) And it's also a training institute, so the professionals who come and attend with the camper, they are taught how to enable access to curriculum, and, really, enable participation. And we do it in a fun, campy environment; it's really an opportunity for kids just to be kids. Our kids tend to go to school, go to therapy appointments, you's really important to have a balanced life, and we're really aware of that.

What about some of the success stories? I am curious to hear about those.

Three or four of our students now have graduated from college, and I've been to every one of their graduations with huge pride of a mother hen for seeing success that these students have enjoyed -- that once they have left Bridge, there is a continuum of success. One student graduated with a double degree, and she is going back to get her Master's next fall. But she, April, has been coming back to the Bridge School and doing a mentoring program for our younger kids, which is really helpful. Because these younger kids can see a future. And April's a terrific advocate. Always was. Since she came to the Bridge School at 7 or 8, we knew she was going to be a fearless leader -- she just has that quality.

And then there are other kids who have followed more of a vocational path. For instance, our son, Ben, who is a very successful organic egg farmer. He's been running the operation now, oh gosh, a good 10 years, if not longer. He goes down to the local Farmer's Market every Saturday morning, sells his eggs, and they sell like hot cakes because they're the best eggs in town. And I'm not just saying that (laughs). You know when you buy eggs in a grocery store, and even when you buy them from a good organic source, you notice the yolks are kind of pale? Ben's eggs are nuclear orange. (laughs) Because they're just so fresh, you know? Some of them have been laid that morning.

The typical profile of our kids is a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, so they do most often have pretty significant physical impairments, and they all have what we call complex communication needs, so they do rely on augmented communication to be generally understood by unfamiliar communication partners.

Pegi, I was at Wrigley Field in August for Pearl Jam, and they had Steve Gleason, who is in a wheelchair and uses augmented communication, on stage before they played "Inside Job." He gave a heartfelt speech...

Oh wow. Please send me that.

I will. Just wanted to mention it since Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam have been such an important part of the Bridge School Concerts over the years.

Eddie's such a dear friend of the Bridge School. He's gotten to know the kids over the years -- well beyond, "hey, I'm here to play for the weekend," and then go on about his business. He had kids, obviously, over the period of time he's been playing. His eldest daughter is friends with one of our students -- her family moved up to Washington state. It's been neat to watch. You now, Dave Grohl, and Beck, and some of the other "young guys" when they started, now have families of their own, and their kids are friends with our kids.

The 30th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert is this weekend, October 22 & October 23, 2016.