JAY Music Finalist Marina Alexandra hosts Southern Guitar Festival Competition

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Guitar Gala is an elegant evening that will feature wine tasting, delicious dining from Dupre Catering, comedy and superb performances by such popular musicians as  Ukrainian-born guitarist,  Marina Alexandra, Charleston based guitarist, Chris Teves, Tony Lee (drums),  nationally recognized soprano, Janet Hopkins, and award winning actress Martha Hearn Kelly from Trustus theater.

Janet Hopkins

Janet Hopkins

Renowned dramatic mezzo-soprano Janet Hopkins, a 16 year veteran of the New York Metropolitan Opera, continues to thrill audiences on her concert tour of symphonic stages across America. Recent performances include The Defiant Requiem (Verdi Requiem) at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC,  El Amor Brujo (South Carolina Philharmonic), Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Bowling Green Symphony Orchestra, Kentucky) and Alexander Nevsky (West Shore Symphony Orchestra, MI).

Known for her innovative style and approach to bringing classical music to broader audiences, Miss Hopkins won critical acclaim from the New York Times and USA Today for the limited edition ARIA. A first-of-its-kind music and fine wine project, ARIA is the marriage of a world class wine personally blended by Miss Hopkins with Tulip Hill Winery and her recording of well known classical Italian love songs at historic Capitol Records in Hollywood. The boxed set was an immediate mainstream hit.

Miss Hopkins made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1991 – 1992 seasons. Since then, opera lovers have appreciated her diverse repertoire on the world’s greatest stage.

She debuted at The Met in The Ghost of Versailles, and has since returned many times over the years, pleasing audiences in Die Walküre, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Der Rosenkavalier, Katya Kabanova, Elektra, Jenufa, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, War and Peace, Les Mamelles de Tiresias, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Khovanschina, Doktor Faustus,The Makropulos Case, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Bartered Bride, and Parsifal. Miss Hopkins has toured Japan three times with The Met in Der Rosenkavalier, Die Walküre, and Rigoletto. While in Japan the mezzo-soprano sang a series of solo recitals in Tokyo, garnering much critical acclaim.

Away from touring and performing, Miss Hopkins enjoys her position as a member of the voice faculty at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.


Marina Alexandra

Marina Alexandra

Marina Alexandra has established herself as a dynamic performer with a powerful stage presence. Finger Style Guitar Magazine described her as an “amazing player that commands the guitar with world-class technique and musicianship that is uncommon.” Marina Alexandra was listed by the Aaron Shearer Foundation as one of the most influential female classical guitarist in America.

She has received awards in several guitar competitions including the Music Teachers National Association State and Regional Competitions and semifinalist in the 6th annual Edwin H. and Leigh W. Schadt National String Competition for classical guitar. Marina has a concert career spanning the last fifteen years, taking her to Piccolo Spoleto Festival, National Public Radio, Allentown Radio, and hundreds of venues including colleges, guitar festivals and museums throughout USA.  She has released three albums   including; Timeless Enchantment (Baroque, Classical, Modern, and Latin-American music) , A Moment of Magic (modern music by Russian composer, Nikita Koshkin) and Americas from North to South (flute and guitar music). Her albums received high praises from such prestigious music magazines as Soundboard, Classical Guitar (UK) and American Record Guide.

Marina Alexandra was born in the Ukraine, where she began her guitar studies at the age of six. In 1996 she immigrated with her family to the United States, and in 1998 she was awarded an assistantship to earn her Master of Music degree at the University of South Carolina.  She has served on the faculties of Furman University, University of South Carolina- Aiken, SC, Wingate University, and Columbia College.  Her students have been awarded scholarships to attend music schools such as the Eastman School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, and University of Southern California.  Under Marina’s direction, many students have also received top prizes in national guitar competitions.

Marina performs regularly on stages throughout the southeast United States. In addition to her concert solo career, Marina Alexandra participates in the group Duo de Vista (with flutist Teri Forscher-Milter).

Marina is a major contributor to the guitar community on both the local and national levels. Mrs. Alexandra is the founding president of the Guitar Muse Society, which  hosts yearly concert and educational events in Columbia, SC.  Mrs. Alexandra is also the artistic and executive director of the Southern Guitar Festival and Competition, which attracts participants from all over the US and abroad. Mrs. Alexandra plays a major role in advocating for the arts, she was invited to be on the planning committee for Midlands Art Conservatory (SC) as well as grant approval  committee for the  South Arts non-profit organization, that represents nine Southeastern states.

Jasper's Best Records of 2015

1117 Magnolia This is what it comes down to at the start of every New Year. We Columbia music fiends must look back and take stock of all that happened in the past twelve months. A lot of music was hurled at the listening public and, as the case always is, some of it stuck and some of it slid sadly to the floor. And so, Jasper proudly brings to you our list of the top ten favorite records coming out of our city in 2015. Remember, this list is not the product of one mind, but of many – a rag-tag team of editors, artists, and general ne’er-do-wells. Dozens of albums got votes, but these are the ones we (mostly) agreed on. As always, we hope you enjoy or at least satisfied by our conclusions. Good, bad, or ugly, all comments and criticisms are welcome and can be directed to michaelcspawn@gmail.com.


Michael Spawn, music editor

10. Ugly ChordsHarbinger

True to the band’s name, Harbinger isn’t always pretty. It’s sometimes dissonant, often cacophonous, but never, ever, dull. The odd moment of quiet intricacy is nothing more than the tornado’s eye, with a dust storm of howling vocals and frenetic guitars lurking only moments away.

9. Debbie & the SkanksLive & Buck Wild

The philosophy behind Live & Buck Wild exemplifies what Debbie & the Skanks are all about in a way that a ‘proper’ studio debut could never match – hit the Jam Room, gather your friends, stock the cooler, set up the mics, and hit Record. It’s both a studio recording and a live album from one of the few bands cavalier enough to ignore the pitfalls and smart enough to see the rewards inherent in such a venture.

8. ColorBlindColorBlind

This is easily one of Columbia’s most satisfying hip-hop releases of the year. On paper, the pairing of local hip-hop don Fat Rat da Czar and singer/songwriter Justin Smith might seem a bit strange, but it’s hard not to get behind a project whose entire reason for being is the promotion of racial equality and an honest look at how we, as both Americans and southerners, take stock of our past and present. And it doesn’t hurt a bit that the record shirks none of the sonic quality we’ve come to expect from da Czar.

7. ET AndersonET2

There’s some debate as to whether this sophomore release lives up to its predecessor, Et Tu,____?, but as valid as either view might be, an equally strong case can be made that it really doesn’t have to. As a standalone record, ET2 finds mastermind Tyler Morris allowing his musical paranoia stretch to potentially dangerous limits while never losing or altering his innate gift for indie-rock songcraft.

6. Abacus En Theory

It can be safely said that no Columbia metal band had a better year than Abacus, and En Theory is the unapologetically rotten fruit of their labors. For listeners who aren’t wool-dyed devotees of hardcore heavy metal, it can be difficult to digest something this aggressive and impenetrable. It’s even more difficult, however, to deny it when a given record has sufficiently rocked one’s ass clean off.

5. New SCMore Success

New SC’s debut, New Success, introduced Columbia to this six-deep collective of emcees, guided by Fat Rat da Czar. As solid as the mixtape was, More Success finds New SC a little older, a little wiser, and draped regally in the sort of swaggering confidence perfectly suited to a group with the single-minded, sink-or-swim-together mentality that defines their latest work.

4. fk. mt.fertilizer

The best kind of punk rock always arises when a band simply wants to rock as best they can, only to find that they can’t repress their natural penchant for raunchy aggression and a spitfire attitude. fk. mt. may not consider themselves a punk band, but neither did Nirvana, the band’s closest aesthetical antecedent.

3. Danny Joe MachadoD A N A S C U S

With Danascus, Daniel Machado gave us not only another document of his exceptional songwriting, but the most lovably unlikeable musical character since Tony Clifton. It’s a pie-eyed treatise on the egos and insecurities of creative people and, like all good satire, the truths it illuminates are funny and uncomfortable and brilliant and sad.

2. Marshall BrownSecond Childhood

Reviews of Marshall Brown’s early work were prone to Jeff Buckley comparisons because of his extraterrestrial vocal range and light musical touch, but Second Childhood’s pop adventurousness reveals an artist more in stride with Sergeant Pepper-era Paul McCartney or Pet Sounds’ Brian Wilson. This may well sound like bold praise, but it’s also a bold record, and one that only gets better with each listen.

1. Brian Robert1117 Magnolia

At least from a male point of view, appreciating Brian Robert’s solo debut is a dual exercise in catharsis and masochism. On one hand, his everyman tales of late-night bars, unreachable women, and the painful process of getting to know oneself transcend those of most country and Americana artists of any level. On the other hand, to uncover bits of your life in his lyrics is to confront the aspects of yourself most of us would prefer to sweep aside. Brian Robert sings on behalf of every well-intentioned asshole among us, and does so with a vocal sadness that all but wrings out the heart.

Ballots collected from Kyle Petersen, David Travis Bland, Greg Slattery, and Michael Spawn. All words by Michael Spawn.


South Carolina Musicians Band Together For Flood Relief Compilation

Artwork by Maria Fabrizio of Studio Ria (from her Wordless News blog)  wordlessnews.com Despite what you’re told when and if you call up a state office, it’s not a great day in South Carolina. In fact (and at the risk of severe understatement), the Palmetto State hasn’t exactly been having what you might call a banner year. But in the wake of the recent flooding and the devastation it’s brought to many of our friends and neighbors, a group of artists, musicians, organizers, and big-hearted citizens have pooled their talents and resources to bring us the SC Flood Relief Compilation. Featuring over 70 tracks—some previously released, some brand new—from homegrown acts (Say Brother, ColorBlind, She Returns From War, Abacus, Post-Timey String Band, Shallow Palace, E.T. Anderson, Ivadell, The Fishing Journal, Those Lavender Whales, and tons more), the compilation represents not only the massive amounts of talent we’ve got in this state, but the sense of community we share and the reassurance that we’re all in this together. The SCFRC has raised $750 as of Saturday afternoon and 100% of all donations are going to the Central Carolina Community Foundation. The music is available at http://scfloodrelief.bandcamp.com and any artists interested in donating their music can contact stereoflycollective@gmail.com. -Michael Spawn


Jasper Magazine September 2015 Release Party: The Music

  artbarWe've got a great evening of music to celebrate the release of our new magazine that covers, among other things, giants of modernism like Georgia O'Keeffe, crazy wigs made by some talented folk working at Trustus, dystopian depictions of mutant hogs conjured up by Julia Elliott, and the worst local musician of all time, that asshole Danny Joe.

Come out tonight, September 17th, to the Art Bar to check out the new magazine, socialize, and hear some great local tunes. Here's some of what we've said before about the acts playing, along with links to their music:

Pray for Triangle Zero

"...the heavily reverbed melancholy and hazy melodies he writes are well within the lineage of chillwave, even as he tends towards busier productions and more urgent tempos than would be the norm. He also incorporates some lovely R&B-inflected moments, like on 'Her Bath Salts' and 'Easy, Girl,' which win him easy comparisons to Toro y Moi.

Those tunes are undeniably likeable, but the best stuff here is when Sams is tinkering on the edges of that signature style, when he tries out a more laconic delivery on the bustling 'Ferris Wheeler' or veers into The Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips territory on 'Call Out Your Name.'" -Kyle Petersen, Jasper Magazine May 2015


Post-Timey String Band

"A duo composed of vocalist/guitarist/kazoo player Kelly McLachlan and multi-instrumentalist Sean Thomson, PTSB are more Gillian Welch & David Rawlings than She & Him, with a love of the most time-worn idioms of classic folk and blues songs and a blazing authenticity to support their claim as a “string band.”

The songs themselves range from lonesome country to ramshackle blues, but McLachlan’s voice is best suited to wrenching the nuance out of individual syllables in the most simplistic of country ballads or sad-eyed blues songs. Here, “I Do” and “Tightrope” serve as the best showcases, although “Blues for Charley” and “Lauren’s Song” are the best examples of the group’s songwriting prowess." - Kyle Petersen, Jasper Magazine May 2013


Marshall Brown

"...Within these fifteen tracks, we find Brown fully embracing and perfecting the anything-goes Neverland pop he began courting on 2013’s Through Vivaldian Colored Glasses. Describing any song or album as ‘Beatle-esque’ runs the very real risk of embarrassing all parties concerned—the artist, the listener, Paul, Yoko, etc. (Ringo would likely remain ambivalent)—but sometimes it’s just the most accurate possible description for a piece of artful pop music, so I’m using it now in what I hope is the best possible way. Second Childhood is the sound of Sergeant Pepper diving headlong into the toybox and treating every discovery like the treasure it is. It’s Marshall Brown being himself completely, while making no bones about his influences and how he can twist them to suit his needs." -Michael Spawn, Jasper Magazine September 2015


Danny Joe Machado

"He’s an asshole musician with delusions of grandeur." - Daniel Machado on his alter-ego Danny Joe Machado, Jasper Magazine September 2015


Taking an American Gun to the Confederate Flag: Todd Mathis Releases Protest Tune "Fuel the Flag"

fuethatflag By: Michael Spawn

In a world of uncertainties, it’s comforting to know we can always count on Todd Mathis for a good protest song.

In 2013, the American Gun frontman, along with members of Whiskey Tango Revue, released “NRA,” three minutes and thirty seconds of honky-tonk satire in which Mathis assumes the perspective of a loud-and-proud firearms enthusiast, hell-bent on protecting an Amendment that is actually in little to no peril. The song is funny, but where “NRA” uses irony to make its point, Mathis’s latest bit of musical conscience arrives in truly earnest form—no jokes, no winks or nudges; simply his feelings on an issue that has the eyes of the nation fixed squarely (again) on South Carolina. But Mathis’s sincere delivery is completely appropriate, given how simultaneously delicate and explosive that issue really is.

Along with ad-hoc backup band The Discard Pile (Paul Bodamer and Philippe Herndon) Mathis just recorded and released “Fuel That Flag,” a protest song in the staunchly American tradition. Musically, the song couldn’t be less subversive; its standard chord progression rides merrily atop an unflashy, mid-tempo backbeat, with the overall feel being that of mid-‘90s alternative rock, a sludgier Superdrag. The tune is easy to latch onto and the chorus pops with confidence, but as with all protest music, the lyrical message is really the whole trip. “Fuel That Flag” began life as a poem partially inspired by Abram Joseph Ryan’s famous Conquered Banner, and once he was satisfied, Mathis put his words to music, recruited a couple of friends, and turned his verse into a recorded document. The lyrics are plaintive without being overly maudlin; they express anger but leave ample room for hope. “Show the state / And show the world / Fuck this talk / Of respectful furl / Take it down / And start tomorrow / To put away / The pain and sorrow,” Mathis sings in the song’s second verse, which gives way to the chorus of, “You say heritage / I say hate / Fuel it now / It’s not too late.” Given Mathis’ well-known humorous touch, (this is, after all, a guy who named his band American Gun, only to turn around write a piece of Second Amendment satire) his sincere delivery is all the more powerfully felt. The vocals dominate the mix—he wants you to hear what he’s saying and how strongly he feels about it all.

Protest music in the United States first gained real traction in the 19th century and from there, it’s bloodline moved through Woody Guthrie, to Bob Dylan and Janis Ian, on to the hardcore punk scene of Washington D.C., and finally finding its most recent wide-reaching embodiment in the vitriol of Rage Against the Machine. I’m obviously only skimming the surface. The total history of American protest music isn’t nearly as important as the history that music aims to make. Not all succeed, but our society inevitably progresses. With this in mind, it might be fair to say that Todd Mathis has written the most important song of his career. While one song might not change the world, passionate people do. And songs don’t write themselves.

Here's a link to the song's Bandcamp, where you can listen for free or as a name-your-price download.




Shaky Knees Festival Preview May 9-11

sk_logo1 We here at Jasper had our eye on Shaky Knees Festival last year when it launched in downtown Atlanta—for rock fans, it was a nice mix of marquee indie talent mixed with a host of accessible names all the way down the bill, and for a decent sticker price ($99 for a two-day ticket). By all reports, last year’s effort, despite colder-than-expected temperatures and a rainy Saturday, was largely a success, a well-planned event that sold out by Sunday afternoon. That, it seems, was enough to embolden the organizers to up the ante.

This year the festival expands to three days and moves to a new location—Atlantic Station—to  accommodate a much larger crowd and a serious line-up that is anchored by such beloved (and commercially successful) indie rock bands as Modest Mouse, The National, and Alabama Shakes.

Those names alone made the advance 3-day pass (at $150) quite the steal and, although those have now sold out, 1-day passes are still available for $85 a pop, and each day features some high-quality acts that, along with the day's headliner, make for a great day or two of music-seeing for any serious fan. We'd like to highlight a few of the supporting acts each day who we think make this year's festival such a draw.

Friday – Headliner: The National

Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires @ 4:00pm

Bradley is a James Brown impersonator-turned-retro soul revival leader who dropped his first album at the ripe age of 62. Since then, he and his Menahan Street Band collaborators have wowed audiences with their vintage sound and Bradley’s emotionally charged performances which take the theatrics of Brown and fuse them with something even more powerful and harrowing. The man has to be seen to be believed, but curious fans should check out the documentary on the singer available on Netflix, Soul of America.

Spoon @ 8:00pm

These well know rock and roll soul minimalists could probably have swapped headlining spots with The National without much of a fuss, given that their tight-pocket grooves and elegantly simple pop hooks are practically direct-engineered to get a large festival crowd grooving and swaying.

Other Friday Acts: American Aquarium, Mutual Benefit, Blood Red Shoes, Sleeper Agent, Wild Belle, The Whigs, White Denim, Bright Light Social Hour, Band of Skulls, Man Man, Dropkick Murphys, Foals, The Airborne Toxic Event, Graveyard, Cage the Elephant, & Gaslight Anthem

Saturday – Headliner: Modest Mouse

Hayes Carll @ 2:15pm

One of several under-the-radar alt-country talents on the festival’s line-up, Carll writes in the finest traditions of the Texas troubadour, crafting clever honky-tonk rambles and wizened and heartbroken ballads with aplomb. With a near-literary eye for detail in his character sketches and elegantly wrought metaphors, Carll is just the kind of singer/songwriter to check out early into a festival day.

The Replacements @ 8:00pm

I’m actually more excited about this recently-reunited band of college rock ruffians than any other act at the festival. Although only frontman Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson remain of the original members, this is still a chance to hear an avalanche of classic tunes that formed much of the early canon of indie rock.

Other Saturday Acts: Wake Owl, Fly Golden Eagle, Packway Handle Band, Apache Relay, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Districts, Tokyo Police Club, Lone Huron, The Lone Below, Phox, Dawes, Portugal the Man, Cold War Kids, Houndmouth, Conor Oberst, and Jenny Lewis

Sunday – Headliner: Alabama Shakes

Jason Isbell @ 3:45pm

This former Drive-by Trucker doesn’t need much to sell him to Southern rock fans—he’s penned sprawling guitar brawl classics like “Decoration Day” and has the kind of soulful delivery that allows him to effortlessly cover both Van Morrison and The Band, so his ability to deliver a first-rate live show is never in doubt. With the release of last year’s Southeastern LP, though, Isbell has also firmly established himself as a songwriter of what could be timeless quality, with songs like “Elephant,” “Live Oak,” and “Cover Me Up” sounding damn near like classics that will still be in circulation among songwriters generations from now.

Violent Femmes @7:45pm

Although far more of a cult band than even The Replacements, Violent Femmes were also a hugely influential band that also boasts their fair share of counter-canon classics, none more so than the over-played (but still awesome) “Blister in the Sun.” Their set is worth it to hear thousands of fans shout these zany lyrics together in unison. It will likely be the kind of pure musical moment that you can only get in a festival setting.

Other Sunday Acts: Benjamin Booker, Paperbird, San Fermin, Langhorne Slim & the Law, Mason Jennings, Deer Tick, The Weeks, Blitzen Trapper, Jackie Greene, Iron & Wine, Trampled by Turtles, The Hold Steady, Local Natives, Kopecky Family Band, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

-K. Petersen

In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Record Reviews - Sheem One & Jorai's Success

"Success marks the first collaboration between local MCs Sheem One and Jorai Williams, and the title is a fitting one. The common theme uniting the record’s 19 tracks is the pursuit of one’s dreams and the internal and external conflicts that can threaten to interfere when the dreamer insists on writing the rules. There are also fluid meditations on women (“Ole Girl,” “Your Love), the joys and struggles of fatherhood (“I Ain’t Got Time,” “Push”), and day-to-day tasks like balancing the checkbook (“Fly”). But Sheem and Jorai never stray too far lyrically from their shared belief that real, honest success can’t come from anything but intuition, and hard work doesn’t stop for anything except tucking in the kids. The most striking thing about Success is how unrelenting the album is in its commitment to positivity. These guys are for real. They dote on their women. They don’t use swear words. They don’t smoke weed. They’re critical of the hero worship that can negatively influence young fans (“If rappers are your heroes then they’re failin’ ya/ If you’re locked behind bars they ain’t bailin’ ya”) and, indeed, there’s no trace of the braggadocio and self-involved opulence that permeates so much of mainstream hip-hop. Philosophically, Sheem and Jorai are more in line with artists like Dead Prez, but without the militancy and adoration for conspiracy theories.

Both guys possess laidback, conversational rapping styles that push the lyrics front and center, and there isn’t any doubt that the message, for them, is everything. And the music is likewise low-key, jibing easily with their alternately confessional and motivational sermons without ever sounding passive or phoned-in. Female backup singers, non-intrusive beats, and soul-infused hooks are all over the place, recalling the East Coast sound that dominated much of ‘90s hip-hop. And that’s another part of Success’s appeal—the love these guys have for the Palmetto state, and Columbia in particular, is in plain evidence. They namedrop everything from churches they grew up attending to specific streets they hung out on as kids.

It’s hard to find fault in an album this earnest, not that it would matter if you did. They aren’t the least bit vague in the assuredness that their cause is right and proper, and I’m in no position to disagree. I haven’t heard either of their work without the other, but Success is proof that a shared vision between two original talents, along with a pay-the-car-insurance-or-die-trying attitude, can yield something unique and worthwhile. You should be rooting for ‘em." – Michael Spawn

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In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Record Review - FK MT's Underwater Goddammit EP

"Beginning somewhere between a Modest Mouse riff and a Yo La Tengo drone, “out ov it” – the second cut on fk mt.’s EP underwater goddammit – bristles, demanding to escape a distortion pedal. The vocalist, Ryan Morris, jumps into the fray, channeling what may have been Wayne Coyne’s younger brother. Ryan pushes the upper range of his voice into often uncomfortable spaces, bemoaning an oft-heard sentiment in under-30 guitar rock: why, oh why, must I continue to screw it all up? The lyrics – few and sparse, unadorned and direct – channel straight to the heart of angst, with cleanly-grafted and driving guitar work pushing against the often-dragging, less insistent and much more unsure drums laid down on the track. “Good listener,” the EP’s opener, demonstrates a thoughtful riff and sophisticated harmonic treatment, and a much more mature lyrical treatment, at least from a formal standpoint. The track still suffers from an unsteady pulse in the drums, though the tension and push-me, pull-you does not go unnoticed as the singer laments “I had a plan to get myself together / But it all fell through on account of the changing weather.”

“Take it slower,” the most accomplished cut on the EP, stands out for numerous reasons, though chiefly for a much-needed differentiation in the treatment of guitars and more tempered approach to texture. Lyrically, it’s the strongest too, clearly showing the decentered desperation the other two songs dance around. The length is right, too – the musical pacing fits well with the straightforward vocals, which Ryan delivers in a broader, though more comfortable, range." – Tom Dempster

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In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Record Review - Can't Kids' Ennui Go

"On what is likely one of the more anticipated releases in her local scene in 2014, Can’t Kids leader Adam Cullum seems intent on delivering something a bit different than the group’s well-received debut Brushes Touches Tongues. While the group hasn’t exactly abandoned their self-described brand of “Southern Gothic cheerleader metal” that seemed so startlingly refreshing in 2012, there does seem to a deliberate sense of stepping back, leaving the songs a bit more open and making the lyrics a bit more pensive than that raucous effort. On a number of efforts here, including the album’s bookends “Oh Momma” and “Oh Adam” and the album’ centerpiece, the hauntingly bereft “You Don’t Plan,” the songs mostly features a pretty cello line from Amy Cuthbertson and Cullum’s quiet fingerpicking and plaintive vocals at the expense of the two members who bring much of the dynamism to the band, bassist Henry Thomas and drummer/second vocalist Jessica Oliver, who tend to only appear on the back end of these tunes. In keeping with that feel, Oliver, who used to be almost a co-leader in the group, seems to have taken more of a backseat in these sessions, sounding more like a traditional harmony singer than ever before.  Only two songs here—the rollicking pop-punk number “More Soda” and the Modest Mouse-y “Late for Lunch”—see her and the band up to their old tricks. While some fans are likely to be put off by the left turn, Ennui Go actually makes for a better listen than Brushes. The two raucous rockers break-up some of the more singer/songwriter material nicely, and the band is mostly finding a sweet spot between the two extremes, finding a buoyant pop bounce on tunes like “The Calm” and “The Twist” that feels different, but every bit as singular, as their early material. And Cullum has always been a brilliant songwriter, alternatively astutely honest and self-reflective and caustic and cackling. He still occasionally shows his love of Isaac Brock a bit too much on his sleeve, but his misanthropy never reaches his hero’s dire levels—instead, Cullum always seems to write, even when he is engaging in casual wordplay or humor, with a keen desire to figure out, however bleakly, the world around him.

With a short running time and a quieter, humbler approach, it would be too easily to think this is a sophomore slump. I would argue, instead, that not only is it a stronger and more cohesive effort, it is also exactly the kind of record Can’t Kids needed to make to grow and mature as a band." – Kyle Petersen

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In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Indie Grits - Cue Seth Gadsden

"The Indie Grits Film Festival returns for its eighth session this April 11th through the 20th in Columbia. Hosted by the Nickelodeon Theater, South Carolina's oldest art house cinema, what started as an intimate local independent film festival has skyrocketed to become one of what MovieMaker magazine has named one of the "Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World." Over the past seven years Indie Grits has established itself as the Southeast's premier film and culture festival by offering attendees a cross section of do-it-yourself media makers as well as annually expanding the festival to include elements of performance art, food, and music. ..." - Wade Sellers For the full story, check out page 38 of the magazine below:

In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 3: Record Review – Youth Model's All New Scars LP

YM Cover Art "This pop-rock turn from longtime drummer Matt Holmes comes across as an impressive studio collaboration, with Holmes taking songwriting and composition duties but allowing Archer Avenue producer Kenny McWilliams to track bass, guitars, keys, and backing vocals to elegantly flesh out the drummer’s originals. The end result is an album that escapes feeling too generic through the fact that Holmes is an able songwriting craftsmen and an understated-yet-engaging vocalist who gets McWilliams’ hyper-polished treatment. And while Holmes borrows from a host of influences, from The Black Keys and OK Go to The Killers and Kings of Leon, he tends to be a synthesizer rather than imitator, lending Youth Model a pleasant (and surprising) sense of authenticity rather than a crass bid for mainstream success." - Kyle Petersen

For more record reviews, check out pages 14-15 of the magazine here:

Movie Review -- The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna

MV5BMjEzNzQxNzUxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDY5MTY1MDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_ The Nick has always been good about keeping a nice selection of well-curated music documentaries rotating through their programming calendar, and The Punk Singer is no exception. The story of the riot grrl movement of the 1990s is one that still urgently needs to be told again and again, and the career of the explosive and charismatic Kathleen Hanna is a fitting, although not entirely unproblematic, vehicle in which to do that.

The film does an excellent job of distilling not only the essential details of the movement, but also the spirit and sense of excitement that surrounded its emergence as a powerful punk subculture. Rooted in the home bases of the Pacific Northwest and DC area, a collection of female musicians formed bands that explicitly addressed issue of patriarchy, sexual abuse, and rape and sought to empower other women to make music, write zines, and becomes activists. An explicitly revolutionary movement, riot grrls held meetings and organized protests and concerts in the hopes of forging a new kind of third-wave feminism.

#2 - Kathleen Hanna in Australia (1996). Photo courtesy of Sophie Howarth

In focusing specifically on Kathleen Hanna, documentarian Sini Anderson somewhat oversells how central the Bikini Kill leader was to the creation of the movement at the expense of her many collaborators and kindred spirits, but the film definitely captures what made the singer so essential to the whole thing. Through footage of just a handful of live concerts interspersed and supported by Bikini Kill studio recordings, Hanna’s undeniable stage and vocal presence, as well as her ability to meld punk and DIY ethos with feminism with a commanding poise makes it clear just how electrifying, and impossible to ignore, Bikini Kill was. The first half of the film essentially tries to recreate the atmosphere and sense of empowerment that the riot grrrl movement inspired as it intersperses archival footage of Hanna doing interviews and Bikini Kill performances with interviews on Hanna's influence with, among others, Joan Jett, Kim Gordon (Body/Head, Sonic Youth), and Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney).

The second half of the film moves quickly through Bikini Kill’s breakup, Hanna’s romance with eventual husband Adam Horowitz (Beastie Boys), her move to more electronic, and somewhat more accessible, sonic terrain in Le Tigre, and that band's extended hiatus around 2006 due to Hanna’s mysterious illness, which dominates the final section of the documentary. The fast pace yields mixed returns, as at times it feels like Anderson is ably filling in the gaps of Hanna’s life, and at other times like she’s pushing too fast through the last 15 years or so of her story to reach the end. Having said that, the film’s punchy 80 minute run time is definitely one of its strengths, and it provides ample time for Hanna to shed light on both her condition and the general plight of those with late-stage Lyme disease, which is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Hanna even makes a nice connection between the kind of hurdles lyme disease sufferers face (and, by extension, other people suffering from disabilities) to the ones that feminism more traditionally tackles.

Kathleen Hanna

The film ends with Hanna’s triumphant return to music, as 2013’s Run Fast, a full-length album recorded by her resurrected moniker/band The Julie Ruin, can attest. It splits the difference a bit between the electroclash of Le Tigre and the shoutalong punk of Bikini Kill, and is a surprisingly sharp return to form for Hanna given her years away from music-making and songwriting.

Some of the more problematic elements of the film were pointed out by the Girls Rock Columbia organized panel that followed Monday night’s screening. The panel featured five volunteers from last year’s camp, Jennifer “Bingo” Gunter, Meeghan Kane, Katherine McCollough, Ony Ratsimbaharison, and Mollie Williamson, many of whom noted the movement’s white middle-class exclusivity and some of the difficulties of translating the riot grrrl movement across divides of race, class, and nationality even as they praised the profound impact and importance of Hanna. This essay by music journalist Laina Dawes entitled “Why I Was Never a Riot Grrrl” became a valuable touching point for the discussion and should be required reading whether you see the film or not.

On a personal note, as a white male music writer who has written explicitly about the gender of some of the members of the panel in the past, the discussion of how female musicians are portrayed in the press and constantly asked to interrogate the relationship between their gender and their art provided an uncomfortable yet necessary reminder of both my own extraordinary privilege and the ways in which even the best of intentions can often bare traces of the very structural inequalities that feminism seeks to subvert.

The film screens once more at The Nickelodeon on Friday, January 31st, at 11pm.

Bonus Feature from Last Night’s Screening: A short set by members of Hauswerk and Those Lavender Whales (Jessica Bornick – drums, Ony Ratsimbaharison – guitar, and Katherine McCollough – vocals) before the film that ripped through two Bikini Kill songs and two Hauswerk originals that fit the spirit of the evening to a T.

-Kyle Petersen






Jasper Goes to Hopscotch: Day 1


This is Jasper’s 2nd year at Hopscotch, a three-day music festival in Raleigh that features an extraordinarily eclectic lineup of over 170 acts scattered at 14 venues in the downtown area. With a pointed inclusion of everything from folk singers, country bands, and indie pop  to hip-hop, avante garde jazz, and death metal, the festival demonstrates a breadth and depth of selection that is quite simply astonishing. This festival also seamlessly blends a significant amount of North Carolina acts in with a wide-ranging group of national and international acts as well. Starting to see why it’s called hopscotch?

While we covered the festival last year a bit in Vol. 2 No. 002 in the context of Columbia’s festival scene, this time around we just want to give you a taste of what the whirlwind experience of Hopscotch is like. So…here we go!

(Note: I (Kyle Petersen) am using the “I” here, although staff photographer Jonathan Sharpe was along for most of the shenanigans as well. Check out a slide show of some of his photos from the day at the bottom of the post!)

I kicked things off at 8:30pm on Thursday with Nathan Bowles (Black Twig Pickers, Pelt), a plaintive banjo player from Blacksburg, Virginia. (The first day’s line-up doesn’t get going until the evening, giving folks time to get off from work. Friday and Saturday are a different story.) Bowles actually has a stronger background in drums and percussion in indie and progressive rock bands, but picked up the banjo a few years ago and has become quite devoted to it, mixing the traditional clawhammer style with a strong progressive bent. Playing a mix of originals and covers, Bowles created a warm, nuanced sound that meandered easily through the attentive crowd in Fletcher Opera Theater, a 600-seat venue where every seat in the house feels intimate. (Fletcher is part of a larger performing arts triumvirate that includes Memorial Auditorium and the Kennedy Theater, making it one of the hotspots of Hopscotch.)

Next I bumped over to The Kingsbury Manx right next door at Memorial, a cavernous 2,000 seater that allows festival goers to really stretch out and for the bands to get seriously loud. A Chapel Hill indie rock cult favorite, KM mixes neo psych and folk with luxurious power pop, and live their is a laidback joy to their performance, with an assured confidence that gives their intricate, occasionally delicate songs a bit of a swagger. Their set left me feeling like, in another world, KM could be as big and as critically lauded as Wilco.

After KM, I sauntered back over to Fletcher, where the Chicago-based singer/songwriter Angel Olsen was running a bit late. I didn’t mind, though, since as soon as she started playing you probably could have knocked me over with a feather. Olsen rose to prominence (as far as I know) from her role in Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s Cairo Gang, where she contributed some pretty otherwordly vocals, but I really wasn’t prepared for her vocal presence here. The inadequate comparisons I could come up with are to people like Antony Hegarty or Joanna Newsom, but neither does justice to the aching, sighing swoon that Olsen employs, moving in and away from the microphone so much and so skillfully that her distance from it was almost an integral part of the song. What she sang about was nearly as enchanting, reflecting on the nature of love and relationships with steely, sad-eyed lenses. This was a set to remember.

Sylvan Esso, a surprising collaboration between Mountain Man’s Amelia Meath and Megafaun’s Nick Sanborn, was pulsating next door (this was the first moment where I was really, really glad I brought earplugs), and I was able to catch the last few songs of their set as well. Their music feel like something that shouldn’t work--electronic dance music backing up free-form freak-folk songs in lieu of any other instrumentation--and yet somehow it does. It also seems like odd music to play live, but Meath and Sanborn were giving it their all, uninhibitedly dancing and swaying to the idiosyncratic beats and baffling choruses as if they’ve found their very own pop nirvana. And maybe they have.

After that I made my way over to the Irish bar Tir Na Nog, located a few blocks away from the glamour of those auditorium spaces, where it shares a block with the Pour House Music Hall and is right  around the corner from Slim’s and The Hive @ Busy Bee; these four clubs form the other hotspot of Hopscotching set-hopping. Despite that fact, I was sitting tight at Tir Na Nog, though, for two of my favorite alt. country bands, both of whom happen to be from Raleigh.

The Backsliders were up first, a group that was a big part of the wave of 1990s alt. country acts that made it seem like the genre was going to be a much bigger force in the music world than it is today. Although some would argue that The Backsliders were one of the best of the lot, they didn’t have as much success as Whiskeytown or Old 97’s, and they disbanded in ‘99, and only recently reunited for a few live gigs. Led by Chip Robinson, still full of as much (maybe more?) piss and vinegar and rock and roll energy as ever, The Backsliders blasted through a set of their classics as if it were 1996 instead of 2013. The original lineup all looked pretty stoked to be playing again, as lead guitarist Steve Howell provided effusive, blistering solos and keyboardist Greg Rice favorably channeled Benmont Tench and Garth Hudson.  Special highlight: Robinson invited up BJ Barham (of American Aquarium) to help him out with “Abe Lincoln,” a tune that AA recorded on their last album and that, last year at Hopscotch, Barham invited Robinson to join AA to sing on.

American Aquarium were up next, and clearly were feeding off the energy the Backsliders left on stage. The last couple of times I’ve caught them in Columbia, they’ve felt a little rougher after coming off hard stretches on the road--here, they were polished and poised, and gave the hometown crowd every little bit of awesomeness that their songs have got. Barham’s vocals, which many of the band’s detractors take issue with, were in particularly fine form. I also got front row seat’s to the Whit Wright experience, where the young multi-instrumentalist spent some heavy time on the lap steel before rotating back in the pedal steel guitar.

The last stop of the night was at the Lincoln Theater, a great mid-sized rock club where Kurt Vile & the Violators were a little late getting on stage, allowing me to catch most of their set as well. While I’m a fan of Vile’s work, particularly this year’s Wakin on a Pretty Day, I was hoping for a bit more guitar fireworks than I actually got. Live he pretty much sticks to the unhurried, spacious 70s rock sound filtered through 90s slacker indie rock vibe that he’s always gone for. His acoustic guitar work, just like on record, is what keeps you going here, as he wanders through his laconic songs not unlike J. Mascis does when he straps on an acoustic.

All in all, an excellent first evening, although disturbingly tiring given the onslaught of day parties and outdoor headliners that awaits us over the next two days...

Why You Should Go to Shows Vol. 1: Todd Snider @ New Brookland Tavern 6/2/13

todd-snider-475-1 I, Jasper music editor Kyle Petersen, am a Todd Snider fanboy. That probably needs to be established from the get-go. However, even a neophyte to the world of the wisecracking folkie would have enjoyed themselves last night.

Snider, as usual, took the stage with nothing but a guitar and a couple of harmonicas, and just over 90 minutes later left the stage littered with dozens of those little memories that make live music so special. Here’s a brief list of just the ones I can recall:

1)      Snider opened the show with “Is This Thing Working?,” a funny, deadpanning anti-bullying song that had the devoted crowd hooting and hollering like he was a preacher at the end of each verse.

2)      A powerful rendition of “Too Soon To Tell,” one of his best new songs that takes a grim, satirical eye towards morality, religion, and mortality.

3)      An impassioned, mid-song argument for how he never gets tired of requests, even of his dog-eared, pseudo-novelty hit “Beer Run.” I wasn’t really buying it, but it was an excellent spoken word bit to add to the performance.

4)      Snider, as he is often wont, finished out the set with requests from the audience. I’m always amused by this, because eventually people holler out enough songs that he could probably still be working from a set list anyway. This time, however, he trotted out one of my favorites, the seldom-played “Lonely Girl” about seeing his future wife for the first time when he was in rehab, and a couple of other surprises.

5)      The final song of the regular set was a request from the girl standing next to me that I was convinced Snider wasn’t going to play—the electric rocker “Cheatham Street Warehouse,” the last song on a rarities and B-sides comp—but then he sent his roadie back to van to retrieve his lyric book, and proceeded to give a mesmerizing reading of the song and make that girl’s night.

6)      Finally, and perhaps most impressively, Snider took the stage in long pants and a flannel shirt with a long sleeve shirt underneath. It was, in fact, pretty hot in New Brookland Tavern last night (I think they cut off the AC so you wouldn’t hear it over the performance) even if you weren’t under the stage lights. The songwriter never tried to remove a piece of clothing, and the result was a constant stream of sweat coming down his arms and dripping across his guitar. While most performers have to deal with heat and sweat and the like, to watch a solo performer keep his poise in such uncomfortable conditions throughout a song was impressive.

Sweat, crowd noise, odd songs that even fans might not know—those are often the reason many people don’t like going to shows. But they are truly also some of the best reasons to go too.

Here's a casual performance of one of the aforementioned songs, "Too Soon To Tell," just for kicks.


Why You Should Go to Shows is a projected blog series that describes the specific joys of certain live performances rather than providing a strict review of the show in question or speaking of the joy of patronage in the abstract.

Music at the Release Party for Jasper Vol. 002, No. 003

A quick run down of the music for tomorrow night's festivities! 6:45 Prettier Than Matt – An acoustic duo featuring Jeff Pitts, a guitarist for local hard rock band Deleveled, and Jessica Skinner, who sports a sultry voice and a ukelele, Prettier Than Matt describes themselves “as if Bon Jovi and Alison Krauss had a baby,” and they tend to follow through on that promise. Think warm Americana goodness tempered with an unabashed love of pop/rock, with an catalog of covers and increasingly potent originals.

8:15 Todd Mathis – Over the course of four full-lengths in the alt. country outfit American Gun, singer/songwriter and guitarist Todd Mathis has established himself as one of Columbia's finest and most consistent scene members, and that's not counting his work in Betty Sneetch and Boxing Day, two now-defunct local rock bands that also were at the top of their class, or his solo releases. Mathis' steady creative output over the years gives him a huge catalog to draw from, but expect a good dose of tunes from AG's last album, Therapy, and a few from an upcoming solo effort recorded with Whiskey Tango Revue.

9:00 Latenights – Young indie rockers Latenights close out the night with their catchy brand of indie rock, mixing Weezer-ish guitar-pop perfection with edgy, distorted riffs more appropriate for Modest Mouse or Les Savvy Fav. Throw, on top of it all, lush, dreamy harmonies and hooks galore, and you have the band's signature sound. Those of you paying attention might also notice that the group made Jasper's Top 10 Local Releases of 2012 with their debut, self-titled full-length!

-Kyle Petersen

New (formerly) Local Music: Hannah Miller - O Black River


Although singer/songwriter Hannah Miller began her music career in Columbia, she recently left the Capitol City in the hopes of breaking it big in Nashville. Still, we here at Jasper tend to hang on to our ex-pats, cheering on their careers and welcoming their new output and hometown returns. We hated missing her record release party last Friday (a surfeit of wonderful arts options that night!), especially because her new record is absolutely amazing.

Recorded with the help of top-notch producer Neilson Hubbard, who has worked with the likes of such accomplished singer/songwriters as Matthew Ryan and Garrison Starr, O Black River’s 6 songs are easily the finest of Miller’s recorded output. While she has had great production work in the past on 2008’s Into the Black (Mitch Dane) and last year’s Journey to the Moon EP (Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks), this time the sound fits the songs like a glove. From the muted trumpet playing on “To the Swift” to the foreboding drums and ominous guitar riffs on “Bleed Out,” Hubbard matches each tune with a full-but-not-overbearing accompaniment that shows a care and attentiveness fitting the song rather than just coloring in the white space—which is one of the hardest things to avoid when trying to flesh out solo performer-oriented folk-pop tunes.

Hannah Miller O Black River

Even more fortunately, Miller has evolved into a first-rate songwriter, and every song here deserves attention. Beginning with the gospel-inflected title track, Miller also shows off her mastery of the slinky pop in “To the Swift” and “Elijah,” introspective balladry on “Elijah” and “Refuge,” and gets damn near indie rock on the throbbing “Bleed Out.” She’s always had a penchant of unorthodox genre mixing, but it has never come across so effortlessly natural until now.

So, while Miller sounds quite happy in the Music City, we can only hope that she remembers where she came from and that she comes back often—and we encourage you to support an artist who has been so thoroughly dedicated to her craft that we might soon be talking about her in national rather than local terms.

You can find more information about Hannah Miller’s music @ hannahmillermusic.com.

- K. Petersen

(Kyle Petersen is the Music Editor for Jasper Magazine -- contact him at kpetersen@jaspercolumbia.com)