The DCG’s Jason Lafay on Joy Division

Jason LaFay, founder of the DeWitt Creativity Group and High School teacher, discusses Joy Division with Sean.

Fisherking “Forget It” EP Review

Having seen Lansing’s Fisherking live twice, first opening for Lemuria in July and more recently earlier this month opening for Agnostic Front, they impressed me with their energetic live show. Guitarist Ben Jenson adds a passion to the band’s sets with his  flying and flailing axe wielding that many of their contemporaries lack. Drummer Alex Corey employs the standard beats found in hardcore punk but punishes his drum kit like it killed someone. He hits the drums with the ferocity of an exploding pipebomb. Finally, singer/bassist Ryan Holmes is a shouter. All of his lyrics are shouted but with an intensity that almost scares you. When he’s on the mic, he puts on look like if you cross his path, you will get jumped.

How does their debut EP “Forget It” compare with their live show?  Well, it’s something you won’t forget and will, in fact, want to look out for. “Searching for Something New” starts off almost thrashy in the guitar’s chugging pattern. Then it goes into all out hardcore greatness. At just over one minute and 30 seconds, the song doesn’t feel rushed. It blasts through each part but with a tenacity and vibrato that makes it feel like it lasts longer. There is an unmistakable swagger in the band’s playing.

“Right is Wrong” hits on the same musical territory as “Searching” but brings in palm muted guitars during the verses. Not a brand new innovation in hardcore, but it makes the song a little bit different than its predecessor. “No Faith in Me” begins with a sample of a conversation. I’m not sure where it comes from but it ‘s cool that the band decided to use a sample. It’s interesting and refreshing. The song also features a guitar solo by Jenson which in uncharacteristically slowed down and melodic in its execution. No fast, blazing solos here.

“Nothing Less” features a guitar line that is addictive to hear and I bet, fun to play live for Jenson. It’s catchy and hooks you into the song. As Holmes shouts his lyrics, the verse guitars and the drums keep the pace and rhythm quite well. “Anxiety” is the most musically diverse track on this EP. Starting with an almost ska-esque guitar line and fast, high-hat laden drum line, Holmes shouts out “There was a time when I felt alone/I felt no comfort in my own home” in a way that makes you feel like he’s angry at someone or some past transgression in his life that he wanted to get out in his lyrics. During the verses, drummer Corey employs the standard snare-bass drum beat done a million times before. What feels different, and ultimately adds, to his approach is that the other instruments, bass and guitar, play just as big a role as the drums. Often that particular drum beat gets the most attention from the hardcore listener but the guitar and bass stand tall, riffing their way through each verse like a wild fire.

The title track, “Forget It”, features guitarist Jenson going all out on the guitar solo. He plays blazingly fast, which is a departure from the solo on “No Faith in Me”. Other than that, the song feels like the rest of the EP. All of the aforementioned rhythmic ideas from the drums to the chugging, thrashy guitars tread through from the beginning of the EP to the end. There is even a breakdown that has a metal tinge to it. The EP feels like it ends not with a bang but a whimper, literally. The track fades out, which kills a lot of the momentum Jenson’s guitar solo and the final verse brought toward the end of the song.

“You just can’t tell me what to believe” are the last words shouted out on the EP. These are fitting words to sum up this EP. I want to tell you to believe that this EP is something different from the general hardcore scene but it really isn’t. What I can tell you is that this band has potential within the hardcore scene and will continue to grow in popularity. However, non-hardcore fans looking to get into the local hardcore scene may find this EP to be nothing new. But, I won’t tell you what to believe. Go check this out for yourself.

Jason Alarm “Engage” Review

You might hear the EP “Engage” by Grand Ledge, MI’s Jason Alarm and be bewildered by where it came from. “Grand Ledge, you say? Impossible!?” But something great doesn’t have to come from a well known place. Recorded in the Spring of 2009, this record is like an elephant in the room. It’s so obviously different than anything else that a Lansing area band has put out in a long time.

The key thing that stands out for me is the heavy use of synths. Played here by Brandon Blancard, they bath the record in almost-power metal greatness and bombast. They help flesh out the band’s sound. Some of the most catchy parts of the record are not played on a guitar, but on a synth. The synth line on “Cobras” is catchy and energetic. Not many bands (if any) in Lansing use synths in any capacity. Jason Alarm’s use of them isn’t necessarily unique in the grand scheme of things but, locally, it is a breath of fresh air in the lead guitar, riff-driven punk rock of Lansing.

Given the previous statement, it might be weird to praise the guitar playing here, but that’s what I’m going to do. On “Friday the 13th”, the lead guitar riff is full of power and might. It’s a guitar riff that you want to rock out to. The rhythm guitars are solid and add depth when the synths take the lead. Some of the rhythm guitars have an almost ska-type bounce to them, like on “Wild Zero”. They can get you moving. The guitars don’t play second fiddle to the synths here but do the jobs asked of them, either on rhythm or lead.

Lead singer and guitarist Matt Waterman’s vocals are, like many things on this record, a unique aspect to the band. He’s tuneful and shouty, often during the same song. He has a swagger in his voice that is infectious and gets in your head. It is also at times raspy and strangled but still listenable. Often, when he sings more melodic lines, it sounds flat and droning. It’s a good thing that he double-tracked his vocals. It makes his voice stand up amongst the music but not necessarily above it.

His lyrics are another thing altogether. He sings lines about zombies, masturbation and girls. Some of them are honestly ridiculous. If they were not backed by such epic music, they might be laughed at. But not necessarily by me. I think I’d just snicker at them. From “Cobras”, he sings “You swallow everything/I can’t remember/I haven’t seen that face/Since last December/I am your poltergeist/ You’re my pretender”. I’m not sure what the idea behind them is, as random as they seem, but they sound so epic and catchy it’s hard not to like them (or at least sing along).

Synth leads, roaring power metal guitar lines and epic vocals characterize this record. These are all things I could get used to hearing from this band. Being over a year since this record came out, the band have had a few line up changes but still have all of these characteristics intact. Some of lyrics aren’t the best but are anthemic and will get you singing and shouting along.

Jason Alarm – Your Radio at Bermuda Mohawk Fest

Jason Alarm played a great set at Bermuda Mohawk Fest a few weekends ago. This is one of the songs from their set. Be on the lookout for more Bermuda Mohawk Fest videos; we will have more available very soon.

Frank and Earnest “Old Francis” review

Lansing’s Frank and Earnest have delivered on one hell of a record with “Old Francis”. Gritty, raw and uncompromisingly working class in its roots, it makes me want to say that it pushes the boundaries of punk rock but it doesn’t. It is fairly standard pop-punk. All of the elements are there from the crunchy guitars, pounding drums and the singalong choruses. There are, however, subtle things that make Frank and Earnest an intriguing unit and a band to look out for.

Ben Hassenger, the band’s singer and guitarist, has a vocal style that is really unique. His voice is deep, gravely and has a working class feel to it, yet it is tuneful and you can hum along to it. It’s like your local construction worker singing punk rock. His voice helps bring home the raw energy of the music. The lyrics, like on “Red and Black”, deal with working class issues. “I’m so tired of the red and black/ the aches in my bones, the sweat on my back/I’m so tired of the red and black/My hopes and dreams are under attack” he sings with a conviction that makes you believe he means what he sings.

I didn’t forget about the rest of the band. Ryan Horky (drums), Otis McCheese (guitar/vocals) and Paul Wittmann (bass/vocals) make this record what it is. The music is tight, thumping and will get you pumped up. It’s full of an energy that only a Lansing band can bring you. Recorded earlier this year, when the city still reels from harsh economic times , the band puts all of their energy into playing their instruments. They play so hard and with a fire that is rarely seen around here. The city’s turmoil has seemed to inspire the band and their music. Even on slower tracks like “Clever”, the music is full of soul and passion. It seems that a city under turmoil pushes its bands to do their best. This is most certainly the case with Frank and Earnest and “Old Francis”. Go do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Small Houses playing (Scene) Metrospace Friday

If you’re curious to hear the sounds and experience the sights of a Small Houses live show, you’re in luck. Jeremy Quentin AKA Small Houses, will be showcasing his unique brand of minimalist Folk music this Friday at (Scene) Metrospace in East Lansing. You can expect a very different live show from Small Houses. For his last record, Our Dusking Sound, he employed the use of a horn and rhythm section as well as strings to fully flesh out his sound live. However, Quentin says that unlike other artists who desire a full band on stage, he prefers to play alone. “…I’m finding more and more excitement being up there alone” says Quentin.

He now takes Small Houses on as a full-time job and says playing the Midwest and East Coast has allowed him to “really kick off his imagination” in regards to working on Small Houses more often. According to Quentin, October will have 20 touring dates and then November and December will be dedicated to writing and recording a new record. Like the rest of the Small Houses catalog, influence will come from all directions, including Punk Rock like Black Flag to other Michigan Folk groups Gifts or Creatures and The Photographers, says Quentin. He also says his songs also pull from personal experiences and the aforementioned groups “has been more of a reason to push my personal growth” as a songwriter.

  • Check out Small Houses, Double Saginaw Familiarity and Graham Parsons (not the rock star, but the band) at Scene Metrospace this Friday. Doors at 8pm and Music by 9pm. The show is All Ages and is $5.

The Unforgettable Johnny Unicorn Interview

Check out Johnny Unicorn’s very vivid blog about his experience of playing at Mac’s Bar earlier this month. Thanks Johnny for mentioning me in your blog! It’s awesome!

Johnny Unicorn’s blog post available here.

Johnny Unicorn Interview

Johnny Unicorn took a few minutes to talk to us before his recent show at Mac’s bar in Lansing.

Chaz/TCF Update: Cartridge Family responds with a “secret weapon”

Since my last article was posted here around this time last night, The Cartridge Family have taken my question posed, “How will The Cartridge Family respond to Chaz’s claims?” and have done just that.

In their response video entitled “TCF’s Secret Weapon” they claim to have a “secret weapon” that will ruin Chaz and his efforts to wage war on the Lansing music scene. TCF say they will unveil the weapon at Day One of BMP Fest this Friday.

With less than 24 hours before BMP Fest begins, what will Chaz’s last ditch effort be against TCF? Does he have a secret weapon of his own and if so, what could it be and when will it be revealed?

Show up to Bermuda Mohawk Fest Day 1 this Friday at Mac’s Bar to find out how the continuing saga will unfold!

Chaz Brackx lights fire under Lansing music scene, continues “War”

After declaring war on Lansing’s music scene on August 9th at the Chaz Brackx and the Tight Teens Mac’s Bar show, Chaz has been the target of criticism as well as the instigator of a debate that is now raging here. Is the scene stale? Does it need to be rejuvenated? He seems to think so. Others are left to wonder if he is right or if he is full of it.

Recently banned-from-Lansing band, The Cartridge Family, seem to be in the latter category. On September 2, 2010, almost a month later, they responded with a reminder to Chaz that they will be at Mac’s on September 17th to reclaim the current scene they helped to birth and grow.

The volley was now back in Chaz’s corner. He took to the camera to call the Cartridge Family a “kid in a cowboy hat” and calling The Cartridge’s Families’ The People’s Champ, “the people’s chump”. He then took the time to promote the Red Swan reunion show on September 25th, 2010 with his respective band as well as Funender at Basement 414.

Will the war end and if so when? How will The Cartridge Family respond to Chaz’s claims? How does the Red Swan reunion show factor into this war?

You’ll just have to find out this Friday night at Mac’s Bar where Bermuda Mohawk Fest will be the battle ground between Team Chaz and Team TCF!

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