Montana Rep’s All my Sons hits the mark

Once again the Montana Repertory Theatre has proven that they know how to present good theater.  Their current production of Arthur Miller’s All my Sons delivers on every front, both visually and emotionally.  Despite the fact that it was written in 1947, at a time when America was coming out of a devastating world war, the play is just as relevant today as it was then.

Flawlessly directed by Jere Lee Hodgin, All my Sons should be considered one of the best productions in the history of the Montana Rep.  With the assistance of scenic designer Mike Fink, costume designer Christina L. Milodragovich, lighting designer Michael Monsos and audio designer Zach Hamersly, and under the spot-on stage management of Hope Rose Kelly, Hodgin transports his audience to a simpler time when hard work and patriotism were honorable traits worthy of pursuit.  Underlying that theme is the timeless truth that sooner or later, the truth will come out.

Even with the dynamic behind the scenes work of Hodgin, Fink, Milodragovich, Mnsos and Hamersly, it takes a great cast to bring out the truth of this work, and the cast of All my Sons definitely fits that bill.  Led by Equity members Mike Boland as Joe Keller, Laurie Dawn as Kate Keller and Meg Kiley Smith as Anne Deever, coupled with locals Colton Swibold as Chris Keller, Mason Wagner as George Deever, Scoob Decker as Dr. Jim Bayliss, Cahilan Shine as Sue Bayliss, Sam Williamson as Frank Lubey, Elizabeth Bennett as Lydia Lubey and Heidi Williamson as Bertie, every member of this ensemble contributes to the success of the production.

This show has a particularly special meaning to this reviewer, as it was one of the first shows he performed at Riverside (California) Community Theater, where he portrayed the role of Frank Lubey.  Watching the Montana Rep production, the words of the play kept coming back to him, as the story progressed.

While this is a true ensemble piece, the work of several members went above and beyond, delivering truly epic performances worthy of recognition.  Among those who truly delivered were Swibold, Dawn, Boland and Smith.  Swibold made us believe in the utter goodness of his character who has lived his whole life believing in someone and something, only to find out it was all a mirage.  Dawn showed us that sometimes the person who seems to be out of touch with reality is the only one who truly understands the situation.  Boland showed us that even if we have the best of intentions, when we cut corners it will eventually catch up to us, while Smith showed us that living with a secret makes us do things that are not always in our best interests.

Despite the fact that All my Sons is a tragedy, the true tragedy would be in not learning the underlying message of the show, and in not enjoying this amazing performance.  You still have four chances to check it out, with shows at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 30, and at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 4 and Saturday, February 6.  You can purchase tickets online or at the UMArts Box Office in the PAR/TV building at the University of Montana.


LA Music Critic Award winners announced

First off, the LA Music Critic Awards apologizes to Rachel Alena for omitting her nomination for Best Blues Band from the previously published list of nominations.  Thanks to her publicist, Doug Deutsch Publicity Services for bringing this to our attention.

Secondly, the LA Music Critic Awards wishes to thank the fans of indie music.  Through the previous five years of nominations, this has been the most successful and eagerly followed set yet.  More than 2,000 fans viewed the nominations and almost 400 of them took the time to vote for their fan favorite or post comments on behalf of their favorite artists.  Their feedback was instrumental in helping us choose this year’s winners.

Last, but not least, it has become very apparent this year of the role that PR firms are playing in getting the word out to potential fans and industry people on behalf of their indie clients.  The LA Music Critic Awards has previously issued two “Seal of Approval” awards to Ue3 Promotions and Red Boot PR for their work.  This year we would like to issue four additional Seal of Approval awards to Doug Deutsch Publicity Services, Noisy Ghost PR, MAD Ink PR, and KG Music Press for their efforts in promoting indie music.  Congratulations.

And now, without further ado, here are the winners (indicated in BOLD):

Best EP Female: Rebel Pop Singer Songwriter (Katie Costello), Phoenix (Lyndzie Taylor), Black Sheep (Sara Routh), Fire (Brooke Moriber)

Best EP Male:  Move (Dave Yaden)

Best EP Band: Captiva (Captiva), The Trap (The Spider Accomplice)

Best CD Male: Criminal (Jerad Finck), India, Seattle (Mike Edel), I Struggle & Emerge (Ryan Aderre’y)

Best CD Female: Follow Your Heart (Katie Garibaldi), Time in the Middle (Claire Holley), Save Your Heart (Patricia Bahia), An American Girl (Cindy Alexander), Memories, Music and Pride (Alice Wallace)

Best CD Group: The Lil Smokies (The Lil Smokies), Little Silver Hearts (Little Silver Hearts), Fantasm (Starlight Girls), The Whole Shabang (Carly and the Universe)

Best Single: Zach Linley and the Rebel Daredevils (“What it Takes”), Jakey Lee (“Children of God”), Katelyn Marie (“Enjoy the Ride”), Keaton Simons (“When I Go”), The Spider Accomplice (“Atmosphere)

Best Video (cover): Alexis Keegan (“Drunk in Love”)

Best Video (live):  Reverend Tall Tree (“How do you get Over That?”)

Best Video (lyrical):  Lyndzie Taylor (“What do I Know?”)

Best Video (official): Paige Nichols (“Burn), Shane Piasecki (“Jackie O”), Katie Costello (“New York Graffiti”), Katie Garibaldi (“Lock the Door, Lose the Key”), Redhead Express (“Mary Did You Know?”), Dave Yaden (“Two”)

Best Rock Band: Sleep Machine, Captiva, The Spider Accomplice, Rocket

Best Pop/Rock Male Artist: Chris Lind, Jerad Finck, Mike Edel

Best Pop/Rock Female Artist:  Katie Costello, Patricia Bahia, Brooke Moriber, Lyndzie Taylor, Cindy Alexander

Best Jazz/Funk Artist:  Dave Yaden (“Two”)

Best Blues Artist:  Rachel & the Ruckus (“Bounce”)

Best Folk/Cultural Artist:  Marina V (Russian Bootleg v2)

Best Country/Americana Artist: Alice Wallace (Memories, Music and Pride), Zach Linley and the Rebel Daredevils (What It Takes), The Lil Smokies (The Lil Smokies), Little Silver Hearts (Little Silver Hearts)

Icon Award: Tony Lucca, Dave Yaden, Mike Edel, Tonya Watts

Fan Favorite: Thirteen artists were nominated this year – a new record.  After all the votes were counted, one artist rose to the top.  Congratulations to Zach Linley & the Rebel Daredevils.  Honorable mentions to Alice Wallace, Cindy Alexander, Marina V and Sara Routh, who rounded out the top five vote getters.  Congrats also to Katie Garibaldi, Patricia Bahia, Shane Piasecki, The Spider Accomplice, Sleep Machine, Lyndzie Taylor, Ryan Aderrey and Little Silver Hearts for being nominated by their fans.

Women in Entertainment: Boca Gambale, jazzy perfection

Our second women in entertainment feature of 2016 focuses on Boca Gambale, Canadian born singer and songwriter, wife of jazz legend Frank Gambale and lead vocalist of the smooth jazz fusion band Soulmine.

I first met this amazing artist almost 20 years ago when I was writing for my first major publication, Music Connection Magazine.  I received an assignment to review a show at The Temple Bar, a legendary LA music venue in Santa Monica.  At the time she was performing with a trio called Boca.  I immediately fell in love with her music and had this to say about the performance:  “Boca has the whole package that includes solid songwriting, looks, voice and killer arrangements. This rising artist has a promising future.”

Boca is the youngest of four children and had a deep desire to play the piano at an early age.  Her father recognized his daughter’s innate talent and found her a private teacher, setting her career path into motion.  From the time she was 10, Boca composed songs that gave voice to her inner-most thoughts and allowed her to explore her innate sense of rhythm.

Life’s negative circumstances fueled Boca’s artistry and her need to escape into the world of music and expression, and she began to sing.   Her strong, confident voice suggested a singer who was much older than 13 and she began to perform professionally at both corporate and public functions like the Young Teens Woman’s Awareness Conference and the CHIN Radio Benefit for the Homeless.  She continued to perform and write with original groups in the Toronto are all through her high school years.  “It gave me the opportunity for self expression and helped me determine my own sound,” explained Boca.

She attended the highly acclaimed Jazz Program at Humber College School of Creative and Performing Arts in Toronto, graduating with high honors.  Although she was initially accepted to study voice and classical theory background, she thrived on studying composition and arrangement and spent her free time performing and recording with the school’s premier 13-piece R&B funk ensemble.   She also began to sing and dance with various authentic Latin jazz groups, performing in many summer festivals, including the Harbourfront Latin Jazz Series in Toronto, the Concert of Colors in Detroit and the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, where she displayed her chops comfortably in three to four languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, and African dialects.

Boca feels that songwriting is a direct channel to the heart, that to enter the realm of musical creation is to tap an endless flow of inspiration.   Boca’s songs provide her with an intense experience of catharsis and release.  “It’s a process of osmosis” she explains, “I deal with raw emotion. That’s where the strength and power is.”  Her creative strength lies in her intuitive approach.  When she writes, she allows an emotional propulsion to lead her to the final result.  Each song is imbued with her fiery, yet subtle energy.  “The best compliment someone can give me about my music, is that they feel it,” she says.   Boca blends elements of blues and jazz into an organic , soulful mix.  The sound is accessible and passionate, what she likes to call “a little bit a this, a little bit a that, mixed with a lotta somethin’ somethin’, and then you get me!”

She released her first CD, Edge of the Night in 2005, joining forces with long time friend and Juno Award winning producer Marco Luciani, who co-wrote the song “Overdrive” on the multi-platinum Dirty Dancing.  The CD received rave reviews from both the press and fans, and  her single “Morning, Noon and Night” received steady airplay on smooth jazz stations.  The title track was also chosen as the featured theme song for the documentary Unsung Heroes, and was produced by Antonio Soave (Capistrano Films) and Doug Deluca ( Producer- Jimmy Kimmel Live), with instrumental score by Bruce Miller (composer of the theme song from TV’s Frasier.  She also performed on Canada AM, the Canadian version of Good Morning America.

It was shortly after this that Boca first met Gambale at the renowned Baked Potato jazz venue in Los Angeles.  She began touring with his band in the summer of 2010 throughout Europe, performing to large audiences and delivering memorable shows.   Their first CD together, Frank Gambale Soulmine feat. Boca was released in 2012.

When asked about her work on Soulmine, Boca replied,” Soulmine is a reflection of all the best parts of me.  It is always an enormous pleasure for me to record an album.  To write and record an album with such a phenomenal talent as Frank, and write about life, love and hope . . . is exceeding my expectations of ‘love in action.’   My present life is nothing short of being ‘in dreams awake’”

Boca is currently working on her sophomore solo release, as well as the next Soulmine album with Frank Gambale, set to be released in the summer of 2016.  Upcoming shows include appearances at The Baked Potato and Catalina Bar and Grill in Los Angeles, as well as concerts in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and China.

For more info about this amazing artist, check her out on Facebook and her soon to be updated website.


LA Music Critic Award nominations for second half 2015

Chris Lind’s “Drive” is the perfect travel companion

Every once in a while, a new artist emerges that has the potential and drive to reach the masses.  Thanks to the power of the internet, such an artist can achieve a level of familiarity and build a die-hard fan base long before they become a household name.  Chris Lind is more than capable of joining that elite group.

Lind is a native of South Jersey (near Philly) who became a driving force on the NYC music scene before recently relocating to his dad’s native Hawaii.  He attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, splitting time living, working and gigging in Honolulu, as well as studying Slack Key guitar with renowned artist Ozzie Kotani.  After graduating with a degree in Music, he moved to New York City.  Within a year he began gigging at hot spots like Rockwood Music Hall (ultimately performing on all three stages), The Living Room and Pete’s Candy Store (where he secured various residencies).

Growing a loyal fan base via his headline performances, Lind also opened for John Cruz at Le Poisson Rouge and the legendary Michael McDonald at The Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut.  Expanding his sphere of influence, he later performed at The Tin Angel in Philadelphia, The Rite Spot in San Francisco, the Hotel Café in Los Angeles, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ and Downbeat Lounge and Anna O’Brien’s in Honolulu.  Towards the end of his time living in New York, he recorded and performed at CMJ 2014 with a newly reformed version of Americana power-pop band End of Love, whose members included Wilco’s Nels Cline and Big Star’s Jody Stephens.  Lind’s “day jobs” during this time included teaching guitar at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and managing a prominent rehearsal studio in Greenwich Village.

“Living, working and playing in NYC/Brooklyn these past ten years, I’ve been able to see so many amazing artists who have inspired the development of my own style, vibe and point of view as a songwriter and performer,” says Lind.  “I’ve been exposed to many amazing places and venues, all rich with unique vibes. The guys in my band are honestly some of my greatest influences.”

A few years after catching fire with his singles “What Is Not Yours” and “A Story of Us” – which were featured in two episodes of the CW’s Smallville – and his debut EP Home, the soulful-voiced Lind takes a long look at the colorful history of where he’s been.

He and his band, featuring Aaron Nevezie on guitar, Dave Burnett on drums and Jeff Hill on bass, have completed work on their forthcoming sophomore EP, which will be released in February.  Nevezie and Burnett also had co-producing credits on the project.  In the meantime, the band has just released the first single, “Drive,” which reminds this writer of a hybrid between Tom Petty and John Mellencamp.

The song starts out mellow, with an amazing acoustic guitar rift that announces to the world that the song to come will blow your mind.  Then, as the chorus kicks in, the tempo shifts into high percussive gear and the multi-talented singer/songwriter shares powerful lyrics that perfectly reflect the forward momentum of his emergence as a force in indie pop/rock.  “Drive” is about the desire to move West with someone he loves.  The chorus reaches its climax with these reflective words:  “The only way we’ll ever get there is the shaking of our hearts.  The only way we’ll ever know is if we drive.”   With these hauntingly beautiful lyrics and the remainder of the songs on the EP, Lind declares emphatically now is the time to move on to bigger and bolder opportunities.

This is definitely an artist to check out and to add to your radar.  For more information about him, check out his website and Facebook pages, follow him on Twitter and subscribe to his Soundcloud channel.

Thanks to Jen Lyneis of Ue3 Promotions and Steve Belkin of Open All Nite Entertainment for bringing this amazing artist to our attention.

Future women in entertainment: Katie Costello, new world advocate

Happy new year!  We wanted to start off 2016 with a future Women in Entertainment feature on a young artist who has already achieved much in her career, Katie Costello, singer, songwriter, label maker and new world advocate.

Costello began writing songs in her bedroom on a digital piano at age 13, and soon thereafter began performing them at various clubs in Los Angeles, where this writer first heard her.  Although not yet out of high school, she was becoming disillusioned by the homogeneity and insulated nature of Southern California’s suburban world.   Consequently, when she turned 18, Costello moved to New York City’s Lower East Side to seek diversity, inspiration, and fulfillment of her dream of making art and music in the creative heart of the Big Apple.

Costello dropped her first full length album, Kaleidoscope Machine, at the age of 17, leading to her “discovery” by legendary DJ Nic Harcourt of the trendsetting public radio station KCRW.  Harcourt had featured her on his show “Today’s Top Tune,” and had this to say about our future superstar:  “It’s good to know what one wants to be when one grows up.  At 17, Hermosa Beach resident Katie Costello is making her path clear.”

Upon moving to New York, Costello decided against going to college so that she could  pursue her art and music full-time.   She has performed, composed, produced, and collaborated on many records, including her own discography, comprised of two full-length albums (Kaleidoscope MachineLamplight) and five EPs (The City In MeFollow Your Every BeatImpossible ThingsUniversal Spread of Compassionate Wisdom, Rebel Pop Singer Songwriter); as well as numerous singles, including her latest, “New World.”  Her artistry has continued to evolve with every new release, while always staying true to her mantra:  classic songwriting, authentic musicality featuring piano and guitar, raw emotion, and honest lyrics.

When she’s not songwriting, recording, and performing, she’s practicing yoga and meditation at Bodhisattva Yoga in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which keeps her looking, feeling, and creating at her best.  She credits the studio’s founder, Vivekan, as a constant source of inspiration and motivation behind her music.  In fact, she and Vivekan founded REBEL POP Records, which now serves as the home for Costello’s musical catalog.

Her music has been featured in various television shows, including Private Practice, Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth, Vampire Diaries, One Tree Hill, 90210, Home and Away, and Rookie Blue, as well as on such films as Bgrooklyn Brothers Beat the Best, Craigslist Joe, Never and others.  In addition, Costello is a
contributing songwriter on many other artists’ projects.  Her music has also been featured in such prominent publications as Vogue, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, BlackBook, Paste and Billboard, to name a few.

You can find a review of her current release, Rebel Pop Songwriter, by clicking here.  For more information about this future superstar, check out her website and her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and definitely subscribe to her YouTube channel.