Antonia Landi

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Bang on a Can All-Stars

In Edinburgh, Music, Performing Arts, Review on August 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

One thing is certain: After you’ve seen and heard Bang on a Can All-Stars, listening to the world will never be the same again. Taking music and its meaning to entirely new and exciting levels, the All Stars ensemble comprises six of the most talented and innovative musicians alive today. Combining unique compositions with both audio and video recordings, the group constantly pushes the boundaries of music, how we interpret it, and where it can be found.

Seeing the ensemble play live is much like what I imagine hearing music for the first time must be like. Even, or maybe especially, to practiced ears, Bang on a Can offers an entirely new musical experience. From cat-cameras to airport noise, no matter how absurd the pieces and settings seem at first, it is nearly impossible not to tap your foot to them. Bang on a Can successfully do what many musicians can’t: They make music entirely new, and completely exhilarating.

To say that these musicians are innovators would be a severe understatement. They take the concept of music and all its meanings up until the present, and turn them upside down and inside out. The word ‘avant garde’ barely scratches the surface of this ensemble. A truer and more encompassing performance of the world would be hard to find. And within this, lies the future of music.

 

★★★★★

 

Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

Dido and Aeneas & Bluebeard’s Castle

In Edinburgh, Festival Theatre, Music, Opera, Performing Arts, Review on August 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Making an opera feel relevant to the present day and captivating to the audience is always a difficult task. Making an opera that is over three hundred years old relevant and captivating is nothing short of a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Oper Frankfurt did not quite succeed in this. Accompanied by a small ensemble with authentic instrumentation, Barrie Kosky’s take on Purcell’s Baroque opera Dido & Aeneas simply felt a bit too ridiculous at times. Unnecessary nudity and costumes that gave the feel of a fancy dress party all too often distracted from the story. Vocally, Paula Murrihy’s interpretation of Dido was exceptional and gripping, especially during the third act. The three witches were just as enticing, although sometimes overshadowed by their own acting.

Second in this double bill was Bela Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Unlike the interpretation of Dido & Aeneas, Oper Frankfurt did a splendid job of creating the ideal setting for Bartók’s music to shine. Minimalist both in the mise-en-scène and costumes, Bartók’s opulent music took centre stage. By using very few props and an absolutely blank stage, Kosky deliberately relied on the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps; a fitting decision considering Bluebeard’s Castle’s expressionist style.

Both Robert Hayward and Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, in the roles of Bluebeard and Judith respectively, impressed with their stellar vocal performances. Although some of the settings and acting needed further explanation, this was almost always done by dialogue, and is only a minor blemish in an otherwise captivating performance.

All in all, this unique double bill offered the audience to see opera in two completely different ways. Even though the interpretations were slightly disappointing at times, the evening nevertheless showcased some great operatic talent.

★★★★

Antonia Landi for Edfestmag

5 Minutes with Jason Webley

In Edinburgh, Entertainment, Music, Performing Arts on September 5, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Picture: listal.com

He’s loud, he’s talented, he’s away. For those of you who have missed him at the Fringe, you’re going to have to wait quite some time for your next chance. 11.11.2011 will be the date of his last gig and after that it’s some well-deserved alone time for this Seattle based accordionist. So before he takes a break, Jason decided to re-visit every country he’s played in before and more. Appearing in Edinburgh both as a solo act and as one half of the Siamese twin duo EvelynEvelyn, Jason rarely travels alone. With the likes of Amanda Palmer and Sxip Shirley in tow, you’ll always be guaranteed a unique experience at his gigs. Here he talks about his first Fringe and the future.

Tell me about your first time at the Fringe. Were you here as a spectator or as an artist? What were your first impressions?

This was my first time at the Fringe, and sadly I didn’t get to get out much… I was jetlagged and busy. But it was lovely to spend some time in such a beautiful place and see a lot of friends.

Do you feel any differently about it now? Has anything changed for you?

Before I ever came I always thought to avoid Edinburgh during the Fringe, that it would probably be a crazy rat race with so many people fighting for the attention of a limited audience. But in the end, I enjoyed the energy and think it could be nice to come back again.

Your music is very unique – not only because of the choice of instruments. How did you end up playing the accordion?

I was working on a play my last year of college, writing the music, and my father had bought an accordion at a garage sale. For the end of the play, I wrote a few songs using the accordion.

You are on an Europe-wide tour right now. What will happen after this?

A little tour of big shows with my band in the US and then a big show in Seattle and then a big break.

Tell me about the 11th November.

The 11th of November is a lot of things… it was Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday. It was the end of World War I. It is the date of my last concert this year.

Where will you be in two years?

Where will you be in five?

I honestly don’t know.

Did you manage to catch any shows during the festival? Did you see anything memorable?

I was bad. As I said, I didn’t really get out at all. I just went to one of Neil Gaiman’s talks. I wanted to see more but everything conflicted with my shows.

EvelynEvelyn – how did this happen?

I was doing this project, writing songs with a bunch of musician friends for a series of little records. I approached Amanda and we enjoyed writing together so much that it we decided to do a full album and a stage show as well.

What was the last song you wrote about?

Probably the last song I finished was my silly song about the solstice.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Gig review: My Passion supported by LostAlone, Never Means Maybe and Fatherson

In Entertainment, Music on May 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

The evening began very early with the arrival of the support band Fatherson on stage. Their fashion sense is about as telling as their music: Fatherson are a mix of hipster pop punk with heavy riffs. Their songs sound a bit like they have come straight from California, which can’t be a bad thing. Fatherson’s sound is quite generic, but whether that is to do with their lack of inspiration or to appeal to a wider audience is unclear. Nevertheless, Fatherson succeed in writing catchy melodies, and in the end, that is what they were remembered for.

After their relatively short set, Fatherson made way for Never Means Maybe. A band with a very strong singer, Never Means Maybe look a bit like a bunch of guys who get together after college to practise in one of their parents’ garages. Even though their get up doesn’t scream professionalism, the band makes up for it by simply having fun on stage. It was a pleasure watching them rock out and the spark quickly jumped over to the audience. The songs offered a good mix between heavy vocals and melodies, and Never Means Maybe did a good job of getting the crowd in the mood.

Up next were Derby trio LostAlone, who were easily the best band of the night. Packed with a set full of new songs and old favourites, LostAlone convinced with strong vocals and something that can only be described as guitar wizardry. It was easy to see that they were the most experienced group out of the support bands, as their presentation was pretty immaculate. While watching them on stage, it was obvious that many hours were spent fine-tuning their act, and this really paid off. LostAlone provided the crowd with perfect harmonies and plenty of reasons to cheer.

As the stage was prepared for the main act of the night, more and more people started to arrive. I must admit that I only heard of My Passion by their reputation, which wasn’t very forgiving, but nevertheless I was excited to see the band’s capabilities as a live act. To tie in with the concept of their new album, My Passion arrived on stage covered head to toe in gold paint. A nice touch, hadn’t it been for the fact that the band felt the need to play the whole set half naked. My Passion unfortunately turned what could have been a solid performance into a beauty pageant, which was not unwelcome to many of their female fans. While the singer was busy making sure everybody had noticed his biceps, half the crowd was dazzled by the young men’s painted upper bodies, while the other half was left to cringe. The music was an interesting mix of electro and screamo, however it was difficult making anything out in particular, as the band was so ridiculously loud. Nevertheless My Passion was a guaranteed crowd pleaser and certainly knew how to entertain. The band spent the final minutes of the gig in the crowd, dancing to their own tunes, which not only made sure everybody was covered in gold paint, but marked the perfect send-off for a night as shining as that one.

The woman behind the feathers – Leyla Rose

In Entertainment, Music, Performing Arts on May 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Picture by Lorenzo Paxia

Advertised as ‘the burlesquer they tried to ban’, Leyla Rose is bold, beautiful, and out there. From Vampira to Mermaids; whatever escapes your imagination, Leyla will have a dance routine to match. But with so many stage personas united in one woman you wonder: Who is the real Leyla Rose?

Luckily for you, Leyla has agreed to give an interview about just that.

Tell me about your childhood. How was it growing up in Northern Ireland?

I grew up in Northern Ireland in the 80s with two sisters, a brother and a large close extended family. It was a very troubled place as everyone knows. My parents worked hard at a life that luckily turned out to be comfortable for me and my siblings, so we were not as exposed to the tougher side of the troubles. But we lived with concerns that weren’t normal, like bomb scares when you went to town on a Saturday or concerns about not walking on a certain side of the street in some areas. I went to an all-girl convent school near where I lived and girls came from all over the city to attend it. Some of them lived with the tougher side of the troubles on a daily basis. With so much poverty and no investment, Northern Ireland was not the land of opportunity. But, and probably because of that, there were great little pockets of artistic culture. It still has one of the most exciting music scenes.  Escapism and expression becomes even more necessary under hardship.

Did the love for vintage and burlesque happen at the same time, or was it completely separate? Would you still dress vintage if you had not pursued a career as a burlesque artist?

I don’t remember the first time I encountered burlesque. I feel I always knew what it was and I always wanted to be part of it. Vintage style always appealed to me and I loved forties fashion in the movies I watched as a kid. But I don’t consider [myself to] have a strictly vintage look. I love classic shapes as they suit my figure but I am fond of a bit of everything from most periods in fashion.

I would still dress the way I do regardless [of my profession] as I think I know what suits me, but the burlesque career encourages me to indulge it a little more. I am very lucky to be sponsored by Vivien of Holloway and so I have many beautiful pieces of retro clothing from her that happen to fit me perfectly. I also love Freddies of Pinewood. There is wonderful vintage shopping to be found off Byres Road here in Glasgow and it is nice to find the odd treasure.

Talk me through an average day.

I don’t really have one. It does involve a lot of organisation and I never seem to be at home for long. There are always emails to deal with regarding forthcoming shows, plus whatever interviews I am doing or bits of promotion. If it is a show day I usually have plenty to do [during] the day but I try to wrap it up in time for costume gathering, hair and make up. I have friends and family in many different cities and I travel to see them as much as I can.

What does dancing mean for you?

It meant initially a platform whereby I could act the way I wanted to and express my imagination. I fell into burlesque really – I have been very fortunate. On my first big club date I met Missy Malone, my best friend and dance partner, and we started to work together immediately. Like many burlesquers I had a big imagination as a child and was quite a misfit. Burlesque gives me the outlet for all my energies that I can’t express in everyday life. I get to show off and strut about and have fun with it. I always perform [as if] me and the audience are sharing an in-joke. I have trouble taking myself seriously as a truly serious artist. I work hard but burlesque is still mainly about having fun for me.

What is your most recent obsession?

Katharine Hepburn. It has taken me to this age and stage in life to appreciate [her] fully. I watched Adam’s Rib on the plane to LA in November and became intrigued. Then I started reading a biography of her in a library when I was killing time between appointments. I kept going back. She, and the characters she plays, represents the woman who put herself and her career first. I had always loved other actresses of that ilk, like [Marlene] Dietrich or Bette Davis, but Hepburn has captured my imagination. Her intelligence, insouciance, boldness, energy, sharp wit and feminine vulnerability are firing my imagination right now.

At a time when bellydancing and burlesque was not on your mind, what did your future look like?

I wasn’t thinking of my future then. I was still young and I was living a very comfortable life with a wealthy guy. I always liked to stay busy so I did what pleased me. I only knew bellydancing was too narrow a field for what I wanted to express and I wanted bigger audiences and more rock n roll. It is big business now. So many are into it and there is more scope for different kinds of expression and greater audiences. But by then I had moved on to burlesque and found what I wanted.

What does your future look like now?

It looks good. I have many shows coming up, more workshops with Missy [Malone] and a lot more travel. But I am planning on returning to university to study law and have been accepted. My life will take a more sober academic turn but burlesque will continue for as long as I am wanted.

What makes you nervous?

Performing a new routine in front of a small intimate crowd. Not getting my much-needed four hours alone per day. Spiders.

What would you change about the burlesque scene?

I would like to see performers value themselves enough to charge proper fees across the board, I’d love to see some burlesquers receive much more recognition and reward for what they do and I’d like to see an end to the misconception that everyone can do it for a living if they try, and that it is a good way to ’empower’ yourself. It is not therapy; it is a job, a skill, or an art form. You bring your talents and skills and personality to the stage. You must have all of that formed and intact before you don a pair of pasties. A crowd is there to be entertained, not fill the gaps in your self-esteem.

Suppose you got a new manager, and they told you to slim down. What would you say to them?

Plain and simply that it wasn’t going to happen unless for very very exceptional reasons, for example, to play a thinner girl in a movie or something. But I am no actor. I’m a burlesquer and my size has never been an issue.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Meet the Creative Martyrs

In Entertainment, Music, Performing Arts on May 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Meet the Creative Martyrs. Picture: Caroline Zak

The Creative Martyrs are a brechtian-style cabaret duo that sing and mime, and sometimes speak. Their aim is to entertain the masses by throwing social commentary around the room, neatly wrapped in songs, and at this they are true masters. From children’s cabaret to hosting the most prestigious cabaret nights in Scotland, the Creative Martyrs can be funny when needed, but it is their uniquely sarcastic songs that really make the duo exceptional. Armed with only a cello, a ukulele and their voices, The Creative Martyrs infuse the old art of cabaret with a never before seen modernity and relevance while still remaining true to their profession.

If there has ever been an act that must be seen by everybody, this is it.

Who are the Creative Martyrs?

Gustav Martyr: The Creative Martyrs have been performing cabaret and vaudeville around the world in venues everywhere for the last 128 years. We perform a variety of different acts and play with the fears in society we find on the way.

How were the Creative Martyrs born?

Jacob Martyr: We do not know.

G: One would presume in the normal manner.

J: We appeared just one day, somehow, somewhere, ready to perform.

If you had to describe your act in one sentence, what would that sentence be?

G: Mimed.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

J: The Creative Martyrs, we hear, are a very interesting act.

G: I have always longed to work and interact with one by the name of Gustav Martyr.

J: I by the name of Jacob Martyr.

Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?

J: The Middle Distance.

G: Not too close.

J: Not too far away.

If you were to form a political party, what would you campaign for?

G: We have. We find that the best campaigning is done silently.

What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done on stage?

J: (long silence) There is too much to choose from.

What is more important, music or words?

G: I feel we would argue that the combination is inextricably linked, the partnership being unbroken wherever possible.

Tell me something unexpected.

G: Banana.

J: Grrrun.

What does this country need?

J: (pointing to themselves) Modesty does not permit us to say.

What are you most looking forward to in the next few months?

J: Time.

Do you have anything planned for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

J: Last year we brought a show to the festival called ‘Tales from a Cabaret’. We performed it because we felt that there were interesting comparisons between the world of today and the world of the past. We feel that it is so important that we are returning once more with ‘Tales from a Cabaret’ although we will be developing and enhancing it. We feel that what ‘Tales from a Cabaret’ demonstrates to people is just as important, if not more so, this year than it was the last.

Why?

J: Because of various situations. We do not wish to say that history repeats itself in a definitive way, of course, it is not as simple as that, but there are situations involving economics, politics and people. The way things may or may not go, we feel it is important to at least comment.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

In interview: Steven Battelle (LostAlone)

In Entertainment, Music on April 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Exciting times are ahead for LostAlone

Having already toured with the likes of My Chemical Romance and Enter Shikari, LostAlone have an impressive list of friends. The reason for their success? The answer is simple: Their music. Having recently changed a third of their line-up and being on the verge of releasing a follow-up to their first album, exciting times are ahead for LostAlone. I had a chance to catch up with singer Steven before their show in Glasgow and talk about everything from perfect eyesight to massive egos.

 

To people that don’t know you yet, what would you describe your music as?

That’s always a tough one. I would normally just say ‘a rockband’ and I know that in this day and age people want to put you in a compartment and say ‘you’re this’ or ‘you’re that’ but personally, I would just say that we’re in the tradition of a rockband. Melodic songs, that rock.

 

I find your sound reminds me a lot of older rock bands from the 70s and 80s – would you say your inspiration comes more from the past than the present?

Yeah, personally I don’t really listen to any modern rock, I never have. There’ll be the odd record that comes through and I’m like ‚oh that’s great, and then touring; you know, if you’re on tour with a band then you end up getting into their music, and I’ve always liked listening to the bands that we tour with. But when I say old music it’s not even old rock; I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, mainly pop and probably not things people expect, and I do think that that’s why we sound like we do. Obviously my dad played me Zeppelin and Sabbath and stuff like that but I really personally love all that kind of pop music as well. And if it’s a good song, I can respect it whatever kind of genre it’s in. I think that’s what makes the sound of the band.

 

How would you describe the dynamic in the band? Did it change a lot when [bassist] Alan joined?

Yeah, it changed a lot. Personally, it became an a lot more positive band, and I would never slag anybody else off, but if someone ends up not in your band, then there’s a reason. Alan was just so enthusiastic about LostAlone and the main thing he brought to the band for me, apart from just being a great guy, was a desire to sing. When we get to the new album my idea is huge vocals, and we can really do that now, because Alan loves to sing, he’s not been made to, so the three of us really sing a lot now.

 

What do you miss most when you go on tour?

I think you’re asking me at the wrong time really! On the My Chem[ical Romance] tour I just made the decision that I don’t miss anything. I absolutely love being a citizen of the world, so I kind of find myself more missing the road when we’re back at home than missing home when I’m on the road.

 

Your lyrics contain some of the most imaginative phrases I’ve ever heard in a rock song – what is your relationship with words?

Thank you! It’s my kind of favourite relationship, really. Equally to music, I absolutely love writing words and the feeling you get when something pops into your head that feels quite unique. That tends to happen to me with no effort. If I was to sit down and try, which I do sometimes, it’s stuff that never gets used, whereas everything that ends up on an album or on songs I really like and care about is stuff that just kind of pops out of nowhere. Generally what happens is that one phrase will come from somewhere and that will really fire off the rest of the song very fast. I can sometimes spend a five-minute extreme period where it’s all done. Or then I’ll have some times where, in my notebooks, the same is started so many times and then we finally get there. But I can’t like bands, even if there’s the best melody, I just can’t like it if I don’t like the lyrics. If it’s something I think is lazy or just, you know, cringeworthy, I’ll just think ‚why?’ why would you just- you know, you had the chance. And I’m not saying that simple words can’t be absolutely amazing. There’s a song on the new record and a song on the first record, which is Predators In A Maze, where I think that’s quite straightforward lyrics, it’s just like you know exactly what I’m saying. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, I’m not saying you have to dress everything in a metaphor but, it’s when people write things that I just find you know… ‘shining in the night’ and ‘I love the girl’. I just think there’s so many better ways of saying things.

 

Why should people listen to LostAlone? What do you have to say?

I personally think people should listen to us purely because we’re an honest band that is doing this for the right reason. I’m not saying a lot of bands aren’t doing that, but that’s my reason to listen to us. We’re quite a unique band and when we started the band I never dreamt that we would be, because I think that’s a really hard thing to get, but from what everyone tells us, you know, fans and reviews, everybody always seems to say there’s something very unique about us, whether that’s the combination of the lyrics, the kind of heaviness combined with the real kind of poppy, catchy harmonies. It’s kind of like the Beach Boys crossed with Sabbath, things like that, and I know people have tried that before, but we haven’t actually tried it, we just kind of ended up like that, because of the way I like to hear music.

 

Apart from music, what other art forms inspire you?

Well, I don’t know if there’s an art form. I mean I’ve been to see art and I like it, but the thing that inspires me the most is natural art, which is just being out in the wilderness. I really like going to places I’ve never been. Even just like on the last tour, the drive to Scandinavia, when you’re driving from Denmark to Sweden and there’s the ocean and it’s a very different kind of ocean to what you’re used to, it’s all ice and stuff. The same when I was in Switzerland, my favourite place, the mountains there are absolutely breathtaking and things like that can just send me into a kind of musical state straight away where I just have to write stuff. Sometimes it’s rubbish but you know when you’re just looking at the views and stuff and you see it, it’s amazing.

 

Do you have any hidden talents?

No! My only talent is writing songs, so everybody knows about that. I mean, at a stretch I’ve got extremely good eyesight, for things in the distance. I’m just trying to think of things. I can see things, like on a sign in the distance, when everybody else can’t see it. Yeah, so I can see things at a very long distance.

 

What makes you angry?

People’s failure to be good at what they’re supposed to be doing. You find that a lot in this industry, people get paid loads of money to be rubbish. I expect the best of myself, and of our band, and I expect the best of everyone working for us, and we get the best out of everyone, cause everyone knows the standard. We’re not like a partying band, you know. We know when to party, there’s definitely a time for that. But we’re not the kind of band that turns up and starts drinking and gets wasted. All the crew are friends and stuff but they all know what their job is and they do it and then we all kind of get into the zone.

 

Ultimately, why did you become a musician?

There’s not any reason, it’s not something I think I had a choice in. I’ve been asked this a lot of times, and I don’t remember not feeling it. It’s just something that I’ve always known I have to do, even when I was not good, I thought I was amazing. I think I had a massive ego when I was about 11. I would just tell anyone ‚I’m gonna be massive, it’s gonna be amazing’.

 

When will the new album be released?

I can’t tell you! You know what, that’s the question I wish I could tell you more than anything. We would’ve personally had it out already, but it’s the nature of the industry at the moment, it’s all really boring stuff to be honest. It’s on a business level, way above anything to do with our band and it’s affecting a lot of bands on the major label that we’re on. Everything’s just been put back. It just means that bands like us that aren’t massive yet have all just been told ‘you have to wait’.

 

Do you have any upcoming shows apart from the My Passion tour? Any plans to play some festivals this summer?

Basically there’s nothing that I can tell you about, actually. The plan is to be doing everything, everywhere. But I have to wait on confirming the release date of the album. We’re not allowed to do anything else until we do. It’s a real difficult situation, the album’s ready; it’s like 99.9% ready. It’s just the way it works. You don’t go and do these things unless the album’s come out, so we’re ready and we’re hoping but it’s in other people’s hands. As I kind of mentioned earlier, people need to do their jobs.

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