This Friday, April 29, presents a tough choice for music mavens, with three major shows going down. Think there’s nothing happening in this city? Think again, pilgrim.
• The Westcott Nation will be throbbing to DJ dizziness when Shpongle takes control of the Westcott Theater, 524 Westcott St., starting at 8 p.m. For more than a decade, Shpongle has set the bar for live electronica with a fascinating audio-visual experience. The group layers samples of Eastern ethnic instruments over ambient trance music. The show now includes the “Shpongletron,” an 18-foot pyramid-like structure with multiple widescreens that display all sorts of alien-psychedelic themes.
At the helm is producer-composer Simon Posford, who works his turntables and vintage Roland synthesizer. He performs a live DJ set amid stage dancers in a show he calls a “maelstrom of beauty and surprise.” Shpongle’s songs attempt to create a soundtrack to life’s events. Posford has cited examples such as the journey through sunlit glades of a waterfall, or the search for the world’s largest, high-energy particle accelerator machine in Switzerland. “We then try to convert that into a musical piece,” Posford states, “imagining, for example, the machines firing up, particles smashing into each other and the various sounds and energies that the visual image might contain.”
Fans of Radiohead’s Kid A (Parlophone) will find familiarity in the music. “It’s only natural that the music you listen to becomes part of your inspiration, but it’s not a conscious thing,” Posford says. Although he’s from England, Posford mostly tours in the United States, where he says the electronica scene appears bigger, and “there’s definitely less high fructose corn syrup in the United Kingdom.”
Since Shpongle’s 2005 appearance at the annual Camp Bisco festival in Van Etten, Posford suggests that “the audiences from the jam-band scene show a lot of similarities to the electronica scene. For a start, a lot of them take mind-expanding drugs and they seem very musical. My perfect crowd!” Random Rab and Pax Effex open the show. Advance tickets are $20, with at-thedoor ducats fetching $25. For details, visit www.thewestcotttheater.com.
• Moving further up Westcott and onto the Syracuse University Hill, the student body will be bouncing at the annual end-of-semester Block Party concert in the Carrier Dome, with a 7 p.m. starting time. Last year’s double hip-hop slam by Drake and N.E.R.D. was a sellout, so SU’s University Union is releasing 2,000 more tickets for this Friday’s blowout.
Headliner Kid Cudi has been climbing the pop ladder ever since his 2008 debut mix-tape caught the attention of Kanye West. Following a featured appearance on West’s album 808s & Heartbreak (Roc-A-Fella), Cudi’s mega-single “Day ’N’ Nite” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 2009. His debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, was released on West’s Good Music label and received three Grammy Award nominations.
New York City rapper Nas and Jamaican reggae artist Damian Marley are touring together in support of their collaborative album Distant Relatives (Universal Republic). Nas gained legendary status in the hip-hop world with his 1994 debut album Illmatic (Columbia). Grammy-winning Marley, the youngest of music legend Bob Marley’s children, has played reggae since age 13. The two performers blend politically relevant hip-hop verses with a reggae backdrop. They deliver their messages with a full live band that combines rock and hip-hop beats with Africanthemed melodies.
Lead-off act Tinie Tempah is on a mission to make it big in the United States. The British rapper’s debut single “Pass Out” debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. Top 40 Singles Chart last year.
Tickets are $25, available at the Dome’s box office or by calling (888) DOME-TIX. Ticketmaster also has ducats, which cost $31.60 after fees.
• Heading into the heart of downtown Syracuse on a Friday night, the Central New York Red Cross will present its sixth annual Battle of the Bands, a 13-band rock marathon at the Onondaga County War Memorial, 800 S. State St. Each band hails from a local corporation or school and contributes $1,500 in sponsorship donations. Event coordinator Amanda Ramsing says the 2010 showdown raised $46,000, bringing the total to nearly $250,000 since the battle’s inception in 2006. This year the Red Cross hopes to double last year’s crowd of more than 1,700 people. It could happen since the event is now at the War Memorial instead of the underrenovation Landmark Theatre.
Each band is allowed a 12-minute set, typically packed with covers, then judged on technical proficiency, musicality, showmanship, audience appeal and creativity. The winning band gets to keep a crystal guitar trophy.
They also take home a crystal teardrop trophy that has the names of the previous winning bands etched on it; this award rotates every year to the winning band’s company. But the best prize just might be the bragging rights.
Among the competing bands is last year’s winner, Defense Mechanism, from Lockheed Martin. The septet packs straight-up rock beats, loud guitars and strong vocals. Last year they unleashed an impressive cover of Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down.”
Ready for a fierce return are The Treblemakers from Onondaga Community College, a horn-heavy ensemble that features student and faculty musicians. Treblemakers guitarist Terry Mulhauser, named Best Instrumentalist at the 2007 battle, promises Van Morrison, rhythm’n’blues and “a few surprises.” And lead singer Stephanie Fortier says she brings more gospel and jazz influences “to mix it up a little bit,” such as a planned take on Sam and Dave’s Motown classic “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” “We’re looking forward to possibly winning this year because we came in fifth place last year,” Fortier says. “Let’s take it to the top!” Also in this year’s lineup: CSB (C&S Companies), The Mosfets (Inficon), The Distributorz (Wynit), Kings of Hospitality (OnCenter), The Bandit Band (Van Buren Elementary), Staff Infection Band (East Syracuse-Minoa School District), The Chillerz (Carrier Corporation), Brush (Aspen Dental), Under the Radar (SRC), Old School (Manlius-Pebble Hill School) and The CXTec Dinosaurs (CXTec). The Plastic Faction will open the show.
Judging the bands are local music veterans Letitzia, Todd Hobin and Andrew Russo. WTKW-FM 99.1 (TK99)’s Dave Frisina and Lisa Chelenza are co-hosts, with Moe Harrington as the judges’ emcee. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; show starts at 6:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 and available at www.redcrosscny.org or at the Red Cross chapter’s office, 220 Herald Place. Another option is to text ROCKIN to 96362 to purchase tickets on your mobile phone (standard text fees applied and ticket cost is billed on your next phone bill). Tickets at the door are $20.
The Music Buzz
• The Westcott Theater, 524 Westcott St., hosts Blues Traveler veteran John Popper and his side project The Duskray Troubadours on Saturday, April 30, 8 p.m. Such a high-profile gig, and one that opening act Kim Monroe will gladly handle. The local chanteuse will be performing with her own full band, with Chris Eves and P.J. Will on guitar, John Jones on bass and Ryan Calabrese on drums. Although they tour locally as the cover group Wild Honey, Monroe and Eves recently performed at South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, as an acoustic duo. Eves also helped write many of the songs Monroe will be performing on Saturday night. “They’re all extremely talented musicians,” she said. “I’m really hoping we’ll tour this summer, maybe opening for another band and go on the road.” Currently, the band is confirmed to perform on Friday, June 10, during the annual Balloonfest. Tickets for the Popper show are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Visit www.thewestcotttheater. com for details.
• Central New York’s fraternal musicians Andrew and Noah VanNorstrand bring their raw Americana back to Funk N’ Waffles, 727 S. Crouse Ave., on Friday, April 29, for an 8 p.m. show. The brothers’ band brings fiddle, mandolin, accordion, banjo, saxophone, electric guitar, bass and drums all together in traditional-sounding bluegrass jams. The broth ers
have been touring extensively throughout the Northeast, but are always happy to return home. “Noah and I have been on the road a ton recently,” said Andrew. “But one of our goals for this year was to play more in Central New York and build our local fan base.” The evening also features music from The Rusty Doves. Admission is $7. Call 477-9700 for information.
• On Friday, April 29, at high noon, nearly 1,500 women will be singing in four-part harmony on the steps of the Onondaga County Courthouse, 401 Montgomery St. The mass sing is part of the annual regional convention of the Sweet Adeline International Organization, which runs Thursday, April 28, to Sunday, May 1. Region 16, the largest region in the organization, encompasses 33 choruses and 46 registered quartets within the borders which span eastern Ontario to northern New York state. The Adelines champion the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education and performances and has an international membership of nearly 25,000 women. Quartet and chorus contests will be held at the Mulroy Civic Center’s Crouse- Hinds Concert Theater, 411 Montgomery St., on Friday, April 29, 3 p.m., and Saturday, April 30, 9:30 a.m. Admission is $30 or free for members. Tickets available at the box office. For more information, dial (613) 859- 4823.
Simon of the desert: Shpongle creator Simon Posford visits the Westcott Theater on Friday.
Monroe doctrine: Sweet songbird Kim Monroe opens for John Popper on Saturday at the Westcott.