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The Arbor Christmas Show: Spreading Christmas spirit and a sense of community in South Jersey

Photo by Mark Martucci | markmartucciphoto.com
The Arbor Christmas Show cast performs at the Audubon Auction House in 2012 | Photo by Mark Martucci | markmartucciphoto.com

The show was Jon’s idea.

That’s what Mike Maier writes, first and foremost, about the annual Arbor Christmas Show on the event’s website, and it’s the first thing he says when asked about it.

It was his idea, so Maier helped his friend Jon Montague put that first show on 15 years ago. They’d worked on other things together in the past, and were both fans of sketch comedy in the vein of  “The Kids in the Hall” and “Monty Python.” They wanted Arbor Christmas to be like a variety show or Christmas special you’d see on TV, but feature their friends, most of whom were accomplished musicians who lived in South Jersey. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Why Jersey’s Young Statues took measures to make “Flatlands” feel like a home away from home

Young Statues _Shervin Lainez (LoRes_WEB)
Young Statues | Photo by Shervin Lainez

Carmen Cirignano hopes putting on his band’s new record can provide a very certain kind of feeling.

He relates it to taking a trip to his grandmother’s house. Whenever he visited her, he’d feel a certain way and have very distinct memories. It’s an idea of being somewhere familiar that’s not exactly home.

“I wanted a cohesive, kind of flowing record that made sense from the beginning to the end and felt like a tangible thing, in a way,” Cirignano says. “I wanted people, when they listened to it or put it on, to be able to go somewhere, go to a place, wherever that place is to whoever listens to it. It could be different for everybody. I wanted it to have that feeling, like it was something as a whole rather than just a collection of songs.”

Cirignano, frontman for Young Statues, is sitting at an outside table at Old City’s Ole Café, having just driven downtown from his home in Prospect Park. He’s joined by bassist Tom Ryan, who has just driven in from across the bridge in New Jersey. They’re both joined by Ryan’s sister’s small dog, who remains mostly quiet as the two discuss the past and present history of the band. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Follow Young Statues into the studio in a new documentary (PREMIERE)

Matt Weber and Tom Ryan of Young Statues in the studio | via Instagram
Producer Drew Vandenberg and Tom Ryan of Young Statues in the studio | via Instagram

To the non-musician, the process a band goes through to make an album may not seem like hard work.

Those unfamiliar recording may think that the songs are always fully realized before the band enters the studio — that musicians can just go in, nail their various parts in a few takes, then move onto the next song. It seems like making an album should come easily and naturally.

But talk to any musician about recording for more than a few minutes, and you’ll know this isn’t the case in the least bit. You’ll hear stories about spending a whole day recording one guitar solo or drum fill, or singers scribbling down lyrics just minutes before the song they’re writing is to be recorded.

Making music isn’t easy. That’s why Young Statues knew that, to record their sophomore LP The Flatlands Are Your Friends, they wanted to travel somewhere to both limit distractions and feel more inspired. So the band spent three weeks recording in Athens, Georgia at Chase Park Transduction Studios, where frontman Carmen Cirignano had also retreated to years prior and wrote Young Statues’ debut album. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: The Key’s review of Young Statues’ The Flatlands are Your Friend

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Young Statues’ The Flatlands are Your Friend

It’s almost fitting that the release date of Young Statues’ sophomore LP, The Flatlands Are Your Friend, would fall around Halloween.

Whereas the South Jersey-based band’s self-titled debut could be categorized as indie pop, and its 2013 EP Age Isn’t Ours bordered on pop punk, Flatlands is something total different — an eerily haunting, rock-driven release.

We’re obviously not talking “Monster Mash” here. It’s edgy and emotional in the vein of “Gimme Shelter,” and a far cry from anything the band has ever done in the past.

Young Statues has always stuck out because they’ve never really fit in where they were. Punk and hardcore bands dominate the band’s label, Run For Cover Records. This has informed the tours Young Statues been on and the fan base they have developed. But you’d be mistaken to lump them in with many of their label mates or this “emo revival” everyone keeps talking about. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Download “Got The Knife” from Young Statues’ new The Flatlands are Your Friend

Young Statues | Photo via facebook.com/youngstatues
Young Statues | Photo via facebook.com/youngstatues

Young Statues’ 2011 self-titled debut album wasn’t exactly unintentional, but it was somewhat unplanned.

The South-Jersey based indie rock band was born from the collection of songs written by frontman Carmen Cirignano on a prolonged trip to Athens, Georgia. He had just left another band behind and was encouraged by people there and then upon returning home to turn what he thought would be solo material into a new project.

That collection of catchy, intricate indie pop tunes won over fans for a reason. Continue reading →

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Love for Locals: Why XPoNential performances mean more to hometown acts

The Lawsuits | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com
The Lawsuits | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

For the touring acts playing – and certainly the audience watching – this year’s XPoNential Music Festival can be summed up as a fun weekend full of great music, great people and relatively little rain.

But for local bands playing the festival, it means just a little bit more. For some, it was their first time playing outdoors in a festival setting. Others were returning to play for the third or fourth time. Several artists thought their sets went well, but a few had technical difficulties or other problems to work through.

From the Marina stage to the Susquehanna Bank Center, the hometown audience seemed to clap a little louder and listen a little more intently to the local acts. For Philly-based pop rock outfit Viv and the Revival, the first act to perform Friday, the admiration even elicited shouts of, “You rock!” and “Way to start our festival!” from the crowd. Continue reading →

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Who was that guy impersonating Forrest Gump throughout XPoNential 2014?

Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com
Forrest Gump impersonator Paul Dengler | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

You never know what you’re gonna get at a music festival. At least that’s what Paul Dengler wanted to make sure life was like at XPoNential this year.

Dengler, a Forrest Gump impersonator, was seen from Friday to Sunday watching performances, interacting with festival-goers and starting conga lines. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: The daily grind of a Vacationer

Vacationer  | Photo by Beth Ann Downey
Vacationer | Photo by Beth Ann Downey

Vacationer makes music meant to alleviate stress and forget troubles.

If they can help the rest of us do this, than the band members must lead pretty relaxing lives, right? Well, not really.

Kenny Vasoli (bass, vocals), Matt Young (vibraphone), Greg Altman (guitar), Michael Mullin (keyboard) and Ryan Zimmaro (drums) have a lot in common outside of the music they make together. They drink copious amounts of coffee, avidly bike ride and make a TON of music in projects other than Vacationer.

And they work, a lot.

Read summaries of each of the band members’ daily lives below, and see how they balance musical and career success with plenty of chill time.

Photo By Abi Reimold | AbiReimoldPhoto.com
Matt Young of Vacationer | Photo By Abi Reimold | AbiReimoldPhoto.com

Matt Young: ”My days are usually pretty simple. I wake up, I have coffee, and then I basically have a home studio in Brooklyn, New York, so I write music all day. Some days I have good days, and I write a couple songs. Some days I have bad days where I can’t really write anything.

So I write in the morning, then usually around 2 p.m. I go and bike like 15 miles. I’ll go down to Prospect Park and bike around the thing like 15 times. Then I’ll come back and write more songs. Then I cook dinner, write more, and maybe watch an episode of something or listen some records. Then I go to sleep and do the same thing the next day.

That’s pretty much it, though, I just write music all day. … I do it in my pajamas. I have a pair of slippers that I literally wear more than any other pair of shoes. I think it’s important to have a regimented schedule, and it’s kind of maddening because I’m in my house a lot. But my studio is a totally separate space in the front, and then the back is where I live. But yeah, I’m basically there all the time unless I’m on tour or out playing shows. I’m writing for Vacationer and Body Language. I have another project called Seafloor that’s just beats, and I have a new solo project that I’m working on. I also work on random commercial sound design and rebranding, and that’s basically it.” Continue reading →

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Unlocked: The past, practice and perception that make Vacationer’s perfect electro-pop

Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer | Photo via facebook.com/vacationermusic
Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer | Photo via facebook.com/vacationermusic

Residents on this quiet street in Horsham probably don’t mind the sounds coming from Kenny Vasoli’s childhood home.

Vasoli is leading practice for his electro-pop band Vacationer inside, down in his parent’s finished garage area that has been converted into a basement. Waters and beers are handed out. Guacamole and chips are set down in the corner of the room. It’s the first time the band coming together to run through their new live show – songs like “Stay,” “Go Anywhere” and “Shining” from their new album, Relief, released this week on Downtown Records.

The new tunes are quite audible from outside the house, but neighbors probably don’t mind chill serenade to their summer evening. Several years earlier there was probably much louder, angrier music coming from this house, as Vasoli started his career in popular pop-punk band The Starting Line, which formed in 1999 and disbanded in 2008, save for sporadic reunion shows and a recent tour.

Those who know Vasoli from those days may not recognize him now. His curly, chin-length hair is tucked beneath a backwards maroon Phillies cap. He’s surrounded by new band mates playing a new variety of instruments, a few of which would never be seen on stage for a punk show. But one instrument has remained through Vasoli’s time spent in both bands – his soothing, very distinct vocals.

Vacationer at SXSW 2013 | Photo by John Vettese
Vacationer at SXSW 2013 | Photo by John Vettese

“My favorite is when [fans] say, “You sound so much like that guy from The Starting Line,’” recalls guitarist Greg Altman of various Vacationer shows since the band started touring more than two years ago.

“It’s happened more times than you would think,” adds Vasoli. “What’s that Val Kilmer movie, The Saint? I’m like The Saint of emo.”

Though Vasoli’s comment definitely was not meant in the context, early 2000 Starting Line fans might have considered him a “saint” of the genre. The music Vasoli was moved to make more than 10 years later couldn’t be more different than what his admirers might have expected from him, but they and other fans have seemed to latch on to Vacationer, no questions asked.

“I’ve really started to embrace the whole emo back story thing, because at this point, I’m confident enough in the music that I make with Vacationer and we’ve sort of cemented some fans in there enough for me to be little more confident in who I was and who I am,” Vasoli says. “It’s nice, I don’t really have to compartmentalize too much anymore, or keep anything a secret anymore, because the people who are into it are into it, and the people that aren’t are just kind of waiting for another one of those records. With anything else in my life, I like not focusing on the past too much, and also not on the future.”

Living in the moment is an idea that Vacationer holds dear, and that comes out on Relief. Continue reading →

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Unlocked: Despite frequent “Trips,” watch Vacationer cater to hometown audience

 

Vacationer | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Vacationer | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

Vacationer does exactly what their name would suggest.

The Philadelphia-based band has toured and traveled all over the world. They’ve shot videos in Hawaii and Costa Rica. They’ve played festivals in Iceland, and toured all over the U.S. alongside bands like Bombay Bicycle Club, Tennis, Hellogoodbye and The Naked and Famous.

But the Vacationer hasn’t always taken their party on the road. They’ve also played Philly enough times since 2012 to make it hard to keep track of. The band has brought its chill-wave sounds to venues like Union Transfer, the Theater of the Living Arts and the Dock Street Brewing Company, as well as outdoor festivals like 2nd Street Festival in Northern Liberties and the Fishtown River City Festival. Their home-away-from-tour, however, seems to be Underground Arts, where Vacationer has played a handful of shows including the two installments of the “Nude Beach” concert series the band started.

To celebrate tonight’s release show and the band’s first time performing at Johnny Brenda’s, we’re recapping a few of Vacationer’s most memorable hometown shows in the live videos below. You can also catch them playing the first day of the Made in America festival on August 30th, Vacationer being the only local band announced on the bill so far. Continue reading →