All posts by lamusiccritic@gmail.com

Monday Mashup 2017: Vol 8

Happy Presidents Day.  Hope you’re all having a great day as we launch into our eighth edition of the Monday Mashup for 2017.

Indie artists have been hard at work, acting as the voice of our generation.  In particular, artists are speaking out about the current political tensions, as well as standing with causes that have become near and dear to many hearts.  Let’s see what’s happening this week.

Trapdoor Social stands with Standing Rock

Local Los Angeles group Trapdoor Social has released an official music video for their song “Never Stop Listening” that supports the ongoing struggle between the United States and DAPL and the Native American Standing Rock tribe.  The cinematography is breathless and the message is the heart of the video.  Check it out and let us know where you stand on this issue.

Here’s what Trapdoor Social and songwriter Skylar Funk had to say about the video:

“Last fall I helped organize a donation drive and trip up to North Dakota from LA to support the water protectors in the Oceti Sakowin camp, at the center of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. We spent a week there working in construction, in the kitchens, chopping wood and shoveling snow, and felt incredibly welcomed and honored for the chance to participate in something so powerful and historic.


One thing they asked of us in orientation was to “Bring It Home” – to share what we learned at camp and to make sure folks back in the communities we’d return to were aware that the struggle to protect that land and water continues. Of course with the recent executive order, the challenge is even more urgent… So we created a video about the people we met at camp paired up with a song I wrote and released with Trapdoor Social last year to share what we saw and hopefully inspire more action.” – Skylar Funk

The video was shot by acclaimed director Alexandra Velasco.

Blue Élan Records artists release new music videos

Two of the artists signed to Blue Élan Records have new music videos.

The first, See, released a live acoustic version of her song “Closed Eyes Open” last Monday.  Her smoky and heavenly voice brings back memories of a cross between Stevie Nicks and Adele, and will serve this up and coming artist well.  Her debut EP, Ties, was released last July, and the debut single, “Potions” has received more than three million hits.  This is definitely an artist to put on your radar, because we firmly believe she will soon be a household name as she skyrockets to the top of the charts.  Let us know what you think.

The second is Cindy Alexander, one of the strongest advocates for indie music in Los Angeles.  This official music video, which is debuting today on YouTube, is for her song “Deep Waters,” the title track of her latest album.  The song was co-written and produced by long-time legendary musician Colin Devlin, and is a powerful vision.  We love the cinematography and more importantly, the message, which is a beacon of hope for our troubled times.  Let us know what you think of this gem.

 

Alexander is also preparing to hit the road this summer, using the Road Nation program to plan her tour.  This amazing program allows fans to choose the itinerary, and allows Alexander to support cancer research, a cause near to her heart since she is a cancer survivor.  Check out her campaign and bring her to your town this summer.

The Thrillseekers and Shannon Hurley release new video

Last but certainly not least this week is the latest video from the ongoing collaboration between The Thrillseekers and indie guru Shannon Hurley (one-half of the award-winning band Lovers & Poets).  We think you’ll love the upbeat message and sound of “Stay Here with Me.”  Let us know what you think.

That’s it for this week.  Gonna be a busy one with volunteering for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival here in Missoula.  If you have the time, definitely check it out.  Keep those emails and music referrals coming.

Invest in the latest from Kanisha K

Kanisha K has been a favorite of this writer since she was first introduced to us by Ue3 Promotions in August 2014.  During that time, she has upped her skills, had her music placed in more and more stores across the country, and received media and critical attention, including nominations for several awards.  This writer has shared her music through several media outlets, including Examiner.com, AXS.com, and Indie Voice Blog, adding them to the list of media outlets that look forward to each new release.

Her new single, “Bet on Me,” should quickly rise up the charts after its release on Friday, February 17, 2017, and will be available on iTunes.  It was co-written and produced by Joe Vulpis, who has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga, Richie Blackmore and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Having been a fan of her music for several years now, we can truly say that “Bet on Me” is the best song Kanisha has released to date.  This power ballad captures the amazing tone of her voice and provides the perfect vehicle to announce to the world that she has truly arrived and is a good bet for musical greatness.  We look forward to hearing this song on Top 40 radio.

“Bet On Me” continues the dynamic creative relationship between Kanisha and Vulpis that began in 2015 with the single “Oh Damn Yeah” (which was released to both Top 40 and CHR radio) and was mastered by Tom Coyne, who has worked on projects by Adele, Beyonce, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, Pink and Ariana Grande.  The song also became popular during the Summer Olympics in Brazil.

“The song is about feeling like the underdog and asking the question, ‘If I were at my lowest point,’ would you still bet on me and take a chance on me?’” says the Holland, Michigan based pop singer.  “I wrote it in kind of a love song mode but am in a very different place in my life now, so I can embrace its much deeper meaning.  When we’re not at our best, are the people we love and count on going to be there for us through the hard times?  Who’s going to stick around and who is not?  I’m really proud of ‘Bet On Me.’  It’s a powerful and inspiring song and I love belting it out!”

We think that Kanisha K is a worthy investment.  We can hardly wait to hear the rest of the new music she is working on in Nashville with such veteran songwriters as Britton Cameron, Nathan Meckel and Jane Bach.  If it’s anything like her past work, then we think you the listener should heed Kanisha’s advise to “Bet on Me.”

 

BSDFF brings ‘Bright Lights’ to Missoula’s Wilma Theatre

Kicking off their 14th annual run, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival opened on Friday night with a screening of the HBO documentary Bright Lights at the Wilma.  Fans began lining up before 6 p.m. for the free screening, and filled the house to capacity.

The documentary tells the story of the relationship between Debbie Reynolds and her children, Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher, and is based on a small portion of the film archives of the family.  It was heartfelt and raw, and made you want to laugh, cry and cheer, all at the same time.

The film was introduced by current Executive Director Rachel Gregg, who was joined by the film’s producer, Todd Fisher.  Fisher returned after the screening and participated in a Q&A session that lasted for nearly an hour.

The Festival continues through February 26, with screenings at a multitude of venues, including the Wilma, the Elks Lodge, the Public House, the Roxy and the MCT Center for the Performing Arts.  Headquarters for the event will be at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography (216 N. Higgins), where you can purchase tickets and merchandise, participate in the VR Experience or attend classes on documentary filmmaking through the Doc Shops series, which begins on Monday, February 20.

For more information, check out the Festival’s website.  You can find the schedule here.

Monday Mashup 2017: Vol 7

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone in love.  Thought we ‘d kick off this week’s Monday Mashup with the latest music video from our friends at Redhead Express.  This original song was written by lead singer Kendra and features her husband Kelly and their son in a simply beautiful homage to love.  Check it out and share it.  If you love what they’re doing, please consider becoming one of their Patreon supporters.

INDIE ARTIST MAKES HISTORY AT GRAMMY AWARDS

Chance the Rapper, an unsigned independent artist who has never recorded a physical album, took home three Grammys last night from his seven nominations.  He won for best rap album for Coloring Book, best rap performance for “No Problem,” and best new artist.  What sets him further apart is the fact that this award winning album is only available through streaming.  Way to set the bar high, Chance.  Here’s to the future of the music industry!

Speaking of the Grammys – huge shout out to a couple of indie artists who performed at the show.  Adrienne Woods played her cello during John Legend’s performance, while indie triple threat actress Tiffany Phillips was a part of the Beyoncé performance.  Way to go!

BALCONY TV HOSTS STREETS OF LAREDO

We introduced you to the amazing sound of Streets of Laredo back in October 2016.  Balcony TV recently hosted them and filmed a music video for their hit single “99.9%,” which they released today.  Check it out.

MORE MUSIC VIDEOS

Two more indie artists recently released music videos.  First up is the amazing Shannon Hurley, who released a stunning Max Headroom-esq video of her forthcoming single “Someday.”

Our second video is a premiere from a new artist we were recently introduced to.  We like what we see so far – please let us know your opinion.  His name is Dario and his tune is called “Good Morning World.”

Enjoy your week!

 

 

Indie artist Janiva Magness deserves the hype

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, otherwise known as NARAS, gives out the Grammy Awards each year for the best in recorded music and spoken word.  While almost all winners are signed to one of the major labels, every now and then The Academy stands up and takes notice of indie artists or shines the spotlight on a legend making a comeback.

The trend began in 2012, when Linda Chorney became the first truly independent artist to secure a Grammy nomination in the Americana category.  Although she did not win, she did open the door for others like Omar Akram, an independent new age artist who won the Grammy for best new age album in 2013.

This year The Academy has shined its spotlight near and far, resulting in quite a few nominations of artists who are previously unknown or obscure, and at least one more indie artist.   Although she is signed to Blue Élan Records, a major independent label based out of Los Angeles that is also home to such legends as Gerry Beckley of America and Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin, Janiva Magness is a relatively unknown indie artist whose music demands attention.

Believe it or not, Love Wins Again is the 12th album Magness has released in her career, and the fifth time she has worked with producer Dave Darling, who has personally garnered four Grammy nominations for his work with such artists as Glen Campbell, Brian Setzer, John Waite and the Stray Cats.

From the first notes of the title cut, Magness shatters the barriers between genres and unleashes an album that must be sonically experienced, with a healthy heaping of indie rock, soul, jazz, gospel and funk to sweeten the overall blues feel.

The album progresses with a stop on the Soul Train vibe of “Real Slow,” before kicking it singer-songwriter/ indie rock style on “When you Hold Me,” which just happens to be one of our favorite cuts.  The album continues with a gospel, soul feel on “Say You Will” before the almost Americana/indie rock feel of “Doorway.”   Magness kicks in with her full blues regiment on “Moth to a Flame” and “Your House is Burnin'” before dialing it back down with “Just Another Lesson,”  “Rain Down,” and “Long as I can see the Light.”  She closes out with the moving ballad “Who Will Come for Me,” to which we state the obvious – your fans.

Magness is a true artist who has mastered the art of bringing a message that transcends musical genres and ties an album together.  She definitely has our vote for Grammy and for providing one of the best albums of 2016, indie or otherwise.  We can hardly wait to see what’s next.

 

Monday Mashup 2017: Vol 6

Never in my life have I witnessed a collapse like that of the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI.  The only positive about the game was the half-time show, which Lady Gaga nailed!  Considering she began her career as an indie artist playing the mean streets of Los Angeles, we should be proud of her ultimate accomplishment – playing her music before a world-wide audience.  Way to go Gaga!!!

For the rest of us who haven’t quite reached our goals yet, we encourage you to keep at it.  Keep singing, writing and creating.  Treat those three people in the audience as if they were the most important three people in the world.  You never know who might be listening, and the doors they are capable of opening.  Keep up the fight!

GRAMMY TIME FOR MAGNESS

This time next week we’ll be celebrating the Grammys.  Since we have at least one indie artist in the running, and a local one at that, let’s give a hearty and rousing cheer for Blue Élan Records artist Janiva Magness and her blues album Love Wins Again.  We hope you take home the prize.

INDIE ARTISTS SHINE AT NAMM

A few years back a visionary named Kerry Getz thought it would be a great opportunity for local indie artists if they would put on showcases at the hotels near the convention site.  It was such a great idea that NAMM decided to take over and expand the opportunity to stages within the event itself.  Getz likewise recruited Tim Moyer to assist her, and Moyer runs this major music event now.  One of the artists who was selected to perform at the 2017 event was Los Angeles country/Americana artist Alice Wallace.  Check out her sterling performance of “I Just Don’t Care Anymore” from NAMM’s Grand Plaza Stage.  You can find the official music video of the song on her YouTube channel.  Enjoy.

RYKKA DEBUTS NEW MUSIC VIDEO

European indie artist Rykka has released her latest music video for “Runnin’ Away” from her new album Beautitudes.  If this video is any indication of the quality of music on the album, then you should definitely check it out.  We will be reviewing the album here soon, so check back with us.

See ya next week.

Monday Mashup 2017: Vol 5

Wow – five weeks into 2017, and indie artists are really making noise.  Milck, an artist we introduced you to back on September 21, 2015, is truly blowing up!!!  In the past seven days, her official music video for “Quiet” has gone from just over 142,000 views to more than 400,000.  She has been featured in Billboard, Allure, ET Online, Twitter and Facebook, and made several appearances on national TV, including her appearance on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.  The YouTube video of that appearance has already drawn more than 75,000 views in less than three days.  We are so proud of you Connie Lim aka Milck.  Thank you for having the courage to bring your message of hope in a time of increased insanity.  We are proud to support you!!!  We are also proud of her PR effort, spearheaded by the Big Kahuna herself – Go Laura and Red Boot PR as you champion another worthy indie cause!!!!

KEATON SIMONS JOINS WITH BACKBONE POSSE

LA Music Critic Icon Keaton Simons has been busy, but not in the typical way.  Always a firm believer in collaboration, Simons has lent his talents to the Backbone Posse on their new music video for “Supawaz Gaz,” which also features the talents of Slimkid3 and Adam Vadel.  Please be warned this video is NSFW or young kids.  Enjoy.

GRAMMY NOMINEE PERFORMS AT THE TROUBADOUR

Indie artist Janiva Magness, nominated for Best Blues Album for Love Wins Again, is having a birthday today.  She recently performed before a packed house at the world famous Troubadour in Los Angeles, and posted several videos of her live performance.  Please enjoy this one and make sure to send her best wishes.

NEW MUSIC VIDEO

We are proud to spotlight this incredible new indie video.  Watch for us to review her new release soon.  Please give it up for Emily Zuzik from Los Angeles with the amazing release of “Alone,” which has garnered more than 25,000 views in the past four days.  We think this one is a definite keeper!!!

We look forward to chatting with you again next month.  Have a great week!

Montana Rep celebrates 50 years with a classic production

Besides MCT, Missoula is also home to another theater company with a long rich history.  The Montana Repertory Theatre is celebrating 50 years by delivering one of their finest productions and by doing it differently than they have in the past.

Neil Simon has generated some of the most comedic plays ever written, and Barefoot in the Park is definitely one of the best of his best.  It is perfect suited as the cornerstone for this Golden Anniversary celebration, and should contribute to making this year’s national tour a smashing success.

Normally the Montana Rep’s show features Actors’ Equity members in the lead roles, but director Greg Johnson turned that around when he cast UM students Whitney Miller and Hunter S. Hash in the roles of Corie and Paul Bratter, newlyweds moving into their first apartment in NYC in the 60’s.  Although they are not (yet) Actors’ Equity, they are no strangers to theater-goers in Missoula.  Miller just completed a run in the lead role of Elle in Legally Blonde the Musical, while Hash appeared in Dracula and A Christmas Carol.

As for the rest of the cast, all of them are veterans of previous Montana Rep productions.  Laurie Dawn portrayed Kate Keller in last year’s All My Sons, which also featured Colton Swibold as her son Chris.  Mark Kuntz starred as Jay Gatsby two years ago in The Great Gatsby, which also featured Swibold.

The set was a masterpiece of simplicity, perfectly created by Scenic Designer Joey Sarno and complemented by Props Artisan Jerry Goodwin.  The set was further brought to life by Lighting Designer Brian Hapcic and Audio Designer Timothy McHenry, while Costume Designer M L Hart provided the final touches that catapulted the stage into a true icon of the 60’s.

This production achieves its success through the overall direction of Montana Rep’s Artistic Director Johnson, while Stage Manager Hope Rose Kelly ensured that each performance was true to that direction.

Suffice it to say that this is one of the finest productions we have every witnessed, including off Broadway and national touring Broadway productions.  Every cast member left it all on the stage as they transported the audience back to the 1960’s in such a natural way that it felt like we had boarded a time machine and travelled there.  This is a true ensemble piece, and every actor had the chance to shine at some point in the show.  The pacing was brisk and moved the show along without ever dragging.

Do not miss this show.  Remaining performances in Missoula are scheduled for January 26 at 7:30 p.m., 27 (sold-out) and 28 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.), as well as February 2 and 4 at 7:30 p.m.  Performances are held in the Montana Theater on the campus of the University of Montana.  Tickets are available at the UMArts Box Office or online at GrizTix.com.

 

Monday mashup 2017, vol 4

OMG what a weekend.  Were you as impressed with the million woman march as I was?  So many indie artists participated in the marches across the globe, but none of them had the impact of one young woman from Los Angeles.  Connie Lim, aka MilCk, has written an anthem that has become the voice of the Women’s March.  Her music video, which was released just one week ago, already has almost 142,000 views.  Check it out and see why this song has struck such a chord with people across the globe.  #ICANTKEEPQUIET.

NAMM ONCE AGAIN A SUCCESS

If you’re like me, then your Facebook was blowing up all weekend.  So many friends performing at NAMM, running into old friends at NAMM, running into new friends at NAMM, and witnessing those wonderful NAMM moments.  My long-time friend Tim Moyer, who helps schedule, host and maintain the nightly musical entertainment at the Marriott and Hilton Hotels during NAMM posted a video by a friend that captured one of those moments.  Check it out. Thanks to Marcy Kraft for the video.  Thanks to Rolling Stone for spreading the word.

THE SHOW PONIES CELEBRATE THEIR NEW CD

Tonight’s the night when The Show Ponies and special guest Freddy & Francine celebrate the release of the new album by the Ponies, How it All Goes Down.   Tonight’s show is at the world-famous Troubadour in West Hollywood.  If you are in LA, we highly advise you to get down there and enjoy the show.  Here’s the link for tickets.

SHANNON HURLEY ANNOUNCES NEW KICKSTARTER

Los Angeles Indie Music Queen Shannon Hurley announced this week that she has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund her fifth studio album.  She celebrated the moment by releasing a video of an acoustic version of her song “Number One,” which will be the first single released.  Check out the video and support indie music by contributing to the campaign.

Have a great week and we’ll catch you next Monday.  If you have anything coming up that you want to promote, please let us know.

 

 

MCT rises to new heights with its production of Urinetown the Musical

Community theatre, when it’s done well, can be a true blessing, and the community of Missoula is very fortunate to have MCT in its midst for the past 29 years since it opened its doors in 1988.

We have been lucky to have witnessed the past four seasons of MCT productions, and we can truly say that the work done on the 2016-2017 season is some of the best we have ever witnessed.  Case in point – the current production of Urinetown: the Musical is easily the best show to come out of MCT during its tenure.  We were so glad to be there on opening night on Friday to witness its greatness.

What sets this show apart is the fact that it does not take itself seriously, but from start to finish takes a tongue-in-check approach that truly endears the show to participants and audiences alike.

Reid Reimers as Officer Lockstock is the consummate narrator and a damn fine actor.  His portrayal is spot-on, and his interactions with Haley Court as Little Sally are among the many bright spots of this production.  Speaking of Court, and having performed with her in her first show (Spamalot) four years ago, her growth as an actress has been nothing short of remarkable.

But they were not the only stars of this remarkable show, which was brilliantly directed by Joseph Martinez, with choreography by Megan Wittshire, music direction by Scott Koljonen, Scenic Design by Theresa K. Jenson and J. Scott Reilly, Lighting Design by Daniel Norton, Props Design by Lesley Washburn, Costume Design by Linda Muth and Sound Design by Gregory Boris, all perfectly carried out by stage director Kera Rivera.

Rachel Shull, who recently returned to Missoula from Utah, is pivotal as Penelope Pennywise, the administrator of Public Amenity #9.  Her voice took her solos to new heights and her comedic timing was perfect as she brought this very interesting character to life.  Equally as compelling was the return of Tim Shonkwiler as Bobby Strong, who provided the perfect nemesis for Shull’s character and ultimately led to her redemption, and Taylor Caprara as Hope Cladwell, the naïve daughter of villain Caldwell B. Cladwell, owner of UGC, played by Kelly Cutler.  Caprara was perfectly cast in this role, and demonstrated immense talent in her portrayal of her character’s eye-opening experience and eventual rise to power.  On the other hand, Cutler’s performance brought forth the perfect villain in Cladwell, and gave the audience a character truly worthy of its animosity.

Of the remaining cast members, all 17 turned in outstanding performances, but one truly shone in her role as one of Bobby Strong’s followers.  Carlyn Runnels, who portrayed Tiny Tom in the cop ensemble, was a singing and dancing machine, and stole the scene with her brilliance and award-worthy skills.

If you are a true musical theatre nerd, MCT is having a contest to see how many of the many musical references contained in this production can be identified by the audience.   Some of them are quite obvious to even the casual theater lover, while others will only be apparent to the true connoisseur of musical theater.   Regardless of which category you fit, it is fun to try and find them, sort of like the theatre’s version of Pokémon Go!

You should definitely make plans to attend this show, which continues today with performances at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., followed by 7:30 p.m. performances on January 25-28, 6:30 p.m. performance on January 29, and 2 p.m. matinees on January 28 and 29.  Call the box office at 728-7529 to inquire about the availability of tickets.   Friday’s opening night was sold out.