Concert Review: Sarah Longfield, July 29, Hard Luck Bar

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While perusing the concert listings for something to see this past Sunday night, Wisconsin guitarist Sarah Longfield‘s name stood out on a bill filled with much more typically metal sounding monikers like Archspire, First Fragment and The Kennedy Veil. Upon further investigation, her music stood out as well – in a good way.

Backed up by a three piece band, Longfield put on a brief yet impressive show that put her guitar skills on display. While not fitting into the tech-death template of her tourmates, Longfield’s mostly instrumental music – technical, kind of proggy, kind of jazzy – definitely still fit in quite nicely as part of the Archspire-headlined Tech Trek tour. To put it simply, she shreds.

Check out the videos for “The Salient Voyage” off of her latest full length Collapse//Expand as well as non-album track “Stay Here” below:

Song Of The Day: Ovlov – Fast G

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Connecticut indie rockers Ovlov are back. Bandleader Steve Hartlett has revitalized the project for Tru, their first album in five years. It’s great collection that hearkens back to the ’90s sounds made by the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and Built To Spill. “Fast G” is one of the highlights off the album – it’s a punchy little blast of energy with a driving riff. Check it out:

Concert Review: Yanni, July 21, Budweiser Stage

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I will admit that going into Saturday night’s Yanni show, I had very little familiarity with the Greek musician and composer. Sure, I knew that Live At The Acropolis, the 1993 concert and subsequent live album which he and his band were celebrating 25 years of, was kind of a big deal back in the day, and that Yanni himself was still a big enough deal with some folks that he can fill the Budweiser Stage, but other than that, not so much. I’d spent very little time actually listening to his music and knew of Yanni as really more of an abstract concept, he of the synthesizer solos and the moustache and flowing hair. But I figured life is all about taking chances and since I had the chance to see Yanni live, I might as well take it, even if the prospect of a three hour concert of almost entirely unfamiliar instrumental music seemed like it might be a bit of a chore going in.

Taking the stage grinning from ear to ear and looking like he just stepped off the set of Miami Vice with his white pants and open white shirt over a bright blue t-shirt, Yanni and his orchestra launched into their set and he kept that grin on his face for pretty much the entire show. Dude’s been doing this for decades and still clearly loves doing what he does. As did the audience. There were solos galore almost from the first note they played and nearly every minute of the set was devoted to Yanni giving his band members (all of them talented musicians) time to shine, so he’s nothing if not a generous bandleader. Although I did notice that of the three violinists onstage, one of them didn’t seem to get the same opportunities to solo and be in the spotlight that the others did. Maybe he’s the new guy or something. Who knows?

While Yanni put on an impressive enough show, his music still doesn’t really do all that much for me (I did not feel any of the so-called “Sensuous Chill” for which he named his most recent album, but I will give a shout out to drummer Charlie Adams for a lengthy solo that was one of the highlights of the night). Yanni himself did kind of win me over though – he’s a bit of a character onstage, from the amusing little “woohoos” he did into the microphone every now and then to his enthusiastic boosterism for his bandmates in the form of constant finger wagging and other emphatic gestures of approval to the somewhat dramatic yet entirely sincere statements he would make throughout the night such as “Tonight we’re celebrating – first of all we’re celebrating life itself – but also the 25th anniversary of Live At The Acropolis” or “he’s captured the essence of the piece of music but he’s also I believe captured the essence … of life” when praising one of the violinists after they played a duet together on “Until The Last Moment.” A little corny perhaps, but clearly Yanni’s not afraid to get a bit corny. I mean, he did name an album Sensuous Chill after all.

Yanni also announced that his one hope for the evening was that he could bring the audience close to the emotions that he and his band were experiencing when they performed at the Acropolis all those years ago and while you know that he must say that at every single show, there’s no doubt that he definitely means it all. And while an amphitheatre by the Lakeshore doesn’t quite compare to an ancient Greek citadel that overlooks the Parthenon, based on the reaction of many in attendance, he at least brought them somewhat close to that feeling.

And now, because I’m sure you were all wondering where he stands on the matter, here’s Yanni’s reaction to the whole “Yanny or Laurel” debate:

Song Of The Day: The Huntress and Holder of Hands – Creatures In Flight

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This past weekend’s Hillside Festival in Guelph saw many great performances across the festival’s stages from the likes of Partner, Lilly Hiatt, US Girls, The Messthetics and more. At its core though, Hillside has always been about the discovery of new music, that special “Hillside moment” where you hear something that blows you away. Of the acts I saw that were new to me over the weekend, one of the best and most unique was Providence, Rhode Island based band The Huntress and Holder of Hands.

Initially started as a solo project and an outlet for her grief after the loss of her husband Dave Lamb to leukemia, bandleader MorganEve Swain has expanded The Huntress and Holder of Hands into a full band. The band’s debut album Avalon offers up a beautiful blend of folk, classical, and post-rock sounds that are still running through my head nearly a week after seeing them. Check out the video for “Creatures In Flight” below: