cjballar's Blog

Kaskade, Cold War Kids to play Block Party 2012

Concert to pair unique mix of dance, soulful rock tunes.

House music DJ Kaskade and indie rockers Cold War Kids, along with one more act to be announced, will perform at this year's Block Party, University Union said Monday.

Kaskade, a record producer at Om Records in addition to his DJ career, specializes in the subgenre of house music. He's collaborated with artists such as Deadmau5 and internationally-renowned DJ Tiesto, and has a deep catalog of remixes and studio albums, the first of which was released nearly a decade ago.

On the other end of the spectrum, the California-based rock quintet Cold War Kids fill out the indie niche category. The group has released a handful of EPs and three studio albums, including their latest, Mine is Yours, which received critical acclaim.

The selection of Kaskade pairs well with the opening dance-dub acts, and the layered indie sound of Cold War Kids will bring a sorely needed diversity to the dance-heavy roster. The show should please more than just fist pumpers, as a healthy dose of shoegazers will most likely be present. There's also still one more special guest to be announced.

However, UU received some student backlash for the lineup. The Twitter handle "#thingsidratherdothangotoblockparty" spurred shortly after the announcement, and it quickly became a full-fledged website, http://thingsidratherdothangotoblockparty.com.

Tickets for Block Party will go on sale online-only Wednesday at 10 a.m. for Syracuse University and SUNY ESF students. Tickets for the general public will be on sale Friday at 10 a.m., and students may purchase tickets at the Carrier Dome Box Office or Schine Student Center Friday at 10 a.m. as well.

Tickets are $15 with SU/ESF ID and $30 for the general public.

Mayfest 2012 acts announced

Artists Outasight, Timeflies, AER, 5 & A Dime to perform Mayfest 2012.

Indie-pop influenced dance artist Outasight, Brooklyn dub-rap duo Timeflies, Syracuse University-based acoustic jam-rap fusers AER and mashup-dubstep artist 5 & A Dime will perform at Mayfest 2012, University Union announced Sunday night.

The announcement came over the course of a few hours on Twitter. Though UU held back from announcing Block Party artists, Mayfest should please fans of rap and electronic music. The lineup is bass drum-heavy, and is sure to bring out the plastic sunglasses and party atmosphere. The performers are strikingly similar to the fall semester's Juice Jam, with the pairing of dance and hip-hop artists.

The performers all skew towards the more obscure end of the spectrum, but that could spell interesting news for Block Party's announcement. Let's just hope they don't shoot that one during another new Mad Men episode.

Mayfest and Block Party will be held on Friday, Apr. 27 at Walnut Park.



Real Estate to headline Bandersnatch show

The Brooklyn-based band looks to continue tradition of strong indie performances at the Schine Underground.

Real Estate, a Brooklyn indie act, will headline the second Bandersnatch Music Series show of the semester on Wednesday, March 28 in the Schine Underground.

After the success of last week's Cults show, University Union looks to gain momentum with the acclaimed up-and-coming act. Support for the show hasn't been announced.

The show precedes the WERW and Music and Entertainent Industry Student Association-sponsored show featuring Titus Andronicus, Caveman and The Vanderbuilts by a day. Students can purchase tickets to both shows for $8, or separately for the Real Estate show for $5. Tickets are on sale now at the Schine Student Center box office.

Doors for the show open at 7:30 p.m.


A conversation with Lights

NewsHouse sits down with Canadian pop star Lights to talk superheroes, black metal and bloodsucking moths.

NewsHouse: So you said you’ve been to Syracuse before. Do you have any memories from when you played here last?

Lights: It always seems like one of those stops we make on tour for some reason. It’s cool, there’s always been a little something. When we first came down here in 2008, we played the same venue a couple times. When we first started there were maybe like 80 people that showed up. It’s fun, there’s always people that show up. There’s definitely a special vibe.

NH: What’s the reception to the new album been like on this tour, and what have you seen from the crowd?

L: It’s awesome. This is technically the second leg of the Siberia tour because we started in October of last year. This is part two of hitting the cities we didn’t go to in states like Florida or Texas. In terms of response, it’s been awesome. I think subconsciously there’s something inside of you that knows what comes across well live, and after a couple years of experience touring after the first record, I applied that to the second record. The new stuff is so fun to play live and so energetic. People really respond to that physically, more than ever, so it makes playing the shows really fun.

NH: The new album has more of an electronic, gritty texture to it. Is that something you’ve wanted to incorporate into your music, or something that just accidentally happened?

L: Yeah, one thing I really wanted to do after the first record was, in an extreme way to say it, uglify it. I mean, the first record was perfect. Everything was in place and in time, and everything was glittering and polished, but I wanted to make the second record heavier and raunchier, to turn electro-pop on its underbelly and turn it into electro-grind. Bringing in Holy F--k really helped, and having Shad to rap on a couple songs, he’s an amazing Canadian rapper. So it really did achieve that, it brought this level of darkness to a really happy record. Which is a really nice juxtaposition.

NH: How does the concept of storytelling and fantasy play into your songwriting?

L: It’s a place you go. When I play Skyrim or World of Warcraft, or I read comics and graphic novels, you’re taken somewhere else. And that’s the beauty of it. You’re taken to this world of imagination, that’s not necessarily all candy, popcorn and flowers. It’s dark and it’s pretty frightening, but it makes you feel challenged. I think there’s something to be said for that. You can invent a place where you feel challenged, feel excited and can feel like a greater person than you are in real life. And then going to that world and writing in that place makes everything feel pretty awesome. It makes everything feel more than it is, which is why I think people listen to music, because it takes them away from what life really is. Which is sometimes pretty drab.

NH: Well that’s a pretty depressing statement to end on.

L: It is a little bit. But that’s art. People escape, and not everyone can afford vacations. So you take the cheap ones and look at art and play video games.

NH: With your broad range of influences, and doing guest vocals for some bands that your fans wouldn’t necessarily listen to (Bring Me the Horizon and Silverstein come to mind), tell me how that kind of influence plays into your music? And can you tell me how awesome black metal is?

L: Black metal is awesome. I started off playing guitar in a metal band. We were called Shovel Face and we were awful. I love Cradle of Filth, but that’s more poppy black metal, and Dark Funeral. It’s just something so different from what I do, I love it. It’s chaos in music. With electronic, everything’s structured. The beauty of pop music is I think everyone dismisses it often as being simple, easy and unrespected. But it’s actually hard to write within a structure, write within boundaries and make it still appealing and original. That’s a really big challenge. That’s why I like pop music and that’s why I do pop music. To make something that’s accessible but would otherwise be predictable, but not predictable. Black metal is essentially the opposite and there are no boundaries. Both are appealing and can change the way you feel.  On these collaborations, I think it’s cool to challenge yourself to do other types of music too. I realized it’s not changing your style to fit other styles, it’s about bringing your style to that music to infuse different styles.

NH: If you could bring one superhero back to life to hang out with for a day, who would it be?

L: Probably Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. She’s awesome, total girl crush. I got my hair cut like her a few years ago.

NH: Last one. Have you actually been to Siberia?

L: I haven’t. But that’s the thing, I don’t think many people have.

NH: But it makes it that much more of a metaphor that you haven’t.

L: Exactly. In the song I say “let’s leave Canada for Siberia.” It’s like you can leave home for wherever. Canada’s my home. And you could be anywhere, the opposite place from where you expect, and still be happy because it’s about who you’re with. The thing with Siberia is it’s so mysterious and cool. Now that I’ve written a record called Siberia, I get a lot of facts coming in from fans on Twitter, from bloodsucking moths to the apparent proven existence of Yetis which scientists all over the world are exploring. Weird things happen there, but it’s so mysterious and crazy and cool, and it’s scary but adventurous. That’s what it felt like making the record, but that’s why it makes sense.


Check out our review of Saturday night's show here.

A February music lookahead for Syracuse

Want some live music this month? Here's a brief look at some of the more prominent concerts coming up in the Syracuse community.

Thursday, Feb. 2: Ludacris and Rick Ross co-headline University Union's massive inaugural Rock the Dome event at the Carrier Dome. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 3: The recently-crowned top DJ in the world visits Syracuse's OnCenter on his Winter White Tour to spin some of the best new electronic and dance music. Dada Life and R3HAB will open for Guetta.

Friday, Feb. 10: Jonathan Davis of Korn performs a DJ set under his moniker "J.DEVIL" at the Westcott Theater. Guests are encouraged to wear white and cover yourself red during his special Bloody Valentine Party event. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 18: Rochester psychedelic grassroots quintet Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad perform at the Westcott Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 18: Buffalo shredders Every Time I Die rock the Lost Horizon in anticipation of their new album, Ex-Lives, due out March 6. Support comes from hardcore heavyweights Terror, Long Island's Stray from the Path and Former Thieves. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Party rapper and college enthusiast Asher Roth returns to the Westcott Theater for another night of raging. Jamie Drastik and Apache Chief open up the show, which starts at 9:30 p.m.

Comedian Ansari brings energized stand-up act to OnCenter

Aziz Ansari, comedian and actor in the television series Parks and Recreation, to perform at the OnCenter in April.

Comedian Aziz Ansari will perform his stand-up routine at the OnCenter Arena in Syracuse Friday, April 13, University Union Performing Arts announced Monday.

Ansari, also an actor on shows Parks and Recreation and Human Giant, has appeared in several movies, including Get Him to the Greek and 30 Seconds or Less.

UU booked Demetri Martin to perform at Goldstein Auditorium in October, and Ansari appeals to much of his audience, which should make for a good performance. Ansari is at the height of his popularity after the release of his comedy special Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening in January 2010, and the anticipation of his next special, set to premiere in 2012.

Tickets for the show will be available first through an online presale for Syracuse University and SUNY ESF students before release to the general public. Starting Monday, Jan. 30, SU and SUNY ESF students can purchase tickets for $15 online or through the Carrier Dome Box Office. Tickets for the general public will fo on sale for $30 on Monday, Feb. 6 through Ticketmaster and the OnCenter Arena Box Office.

Chris Conley, local bands light up Lost Horizon with acoustic show

Chris Conley plays old favorites and new songs at the Lost Horizon, with help from a few local acts.

Saves the Day frontman Chris Conley's singing is a laborious process. When he reaches up for the high notes, his face scrunches up, resembling an overbearing grandmother looking for a child's cheeks to pinch.

For all that work, however, his uniquely high-pitched, emo-drenched voice crooned the audience at the Lost Horizon on Saturday during an acoustic show at the typically heavy rock venue.

Kayleigh Goldsworthy of Syracuse rock group The Scarlet Ending and Jamie Boucher of local pop-rockers Give Us Jersey also performed, showcasing two of central New York's promising up-and-coming bands.

Conley reveled in the intimate setting. He didn't have a predetermined setlist, and instead played only audience requests. Occasionally, he would dismiss a suggestion because it required a bass guitar or percussion, but hinted with a coy wink that he'd play it when the full band came back in a few months.

He also dragged an audience member up to sing "Let It All Go," a track off Saves the Day's newest release, Daybreak. The audience member also sang the guitar solo with a slew of fabricated onomatopoeias.

And Conley took all requests. He would occasionally pause to note how old some of material was-- some dating back to the mid-1990s-- before performing the song with just as much energy as a decade prior.

Though it's been 13 years since Saves the Day released its debut album, Conley looked as vibrant as ever. And though he admittedly forgets some of the lyrics to his older material, he carried a youthful energy and the same striking golden-brown swoop haircut that breathed life into the Lost Horizon crowd.

Before he performed, Kayleigh Goldsworthy of The Scarlet Ending debuted her solo material, fresh from a road trip up from her new permanent residence in Brooklyn with nothing with nothing but an Upstate diet of coffee, beer and a hot dog before playing.

Upon seeing Scarlet Ending bass player Aaron Garritillo, Goldsworthy smiled and joked, "You can come up here and play air bass if you want."

But it was a night to showcase her solo talent. Her material, separate from Scarlet Ending, consisted of folksy four-chord songs rich in storytelling and driving rhythm.

Her family and band members were also in attendance, seated just offstage, but still well within earshot. In a brief moment of sibling rivalry, Goldsworthy jokingly shot back at her sister after a few comments, yelling out, "This is my show, not your show!"

And her show was a hit with the crowd. Her vocals were near flawless, and her songs were soulful.

Jamie Boucher of Give Us Jersey was fighting a more uphill battle, however.

When he surveyed the Syracuse crowd to see who had heard of his band, a local pop-rock group, there were few who had. And the performance converted few.

Boucher showcased good vocal range, but did little to distinguish himself amid generic major chords and big choruses that failed to stick.

But, the performance encapsulated the venerable Conley, the impressive Goldsworthy and the raw Boucher, and showcased the frontman of one of the foremost alternative rock acts still touring.

Ludacris, Rick Ross to Rock the Dome

The two Southern rappers will co-headline University Union's inaugural winter concert at the Carrier Dome.

Rappers Ludacris and Rick Ross will co-headline its Rock The Dome concert, held in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 2, University Union announced Wednesday.

The two popular Southern rappers are the first headliners for the inaugural event, a new large-scale concert in addition to the springtime Block Party.

Rock the DomeThrough his decade-long career as a rapper and actor, Ludacris has three Grammy awards, nine BET awards and three MTV Music Video awards. In addition to his heralded music career, he's appeared on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and won a Screen Actors Guild award for his role in the movie Crash.  He's released seven albums, with his eighth, Ludaversal, on its way in early 2012.

His co-headliner, the Miami-based Rick Ross, is most known for his prolific debut album Port of Miami. Since then, he's recorded three albums that have debuted in the Billboard Top 10 chart. His newest effort, God Forgives, I Don't, is set to be released in 2012.

Tickets for the event are available for Syracuse University and SUNY ESF students starting Monday, Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. for $15 through Ticketmaster. On Friday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m., students can purchase tickets for $15 at the Carrier Dome Box Office. Tickets will also be available for students at the Schine Box Office starting Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. General admission tickets will go on sale to the public Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. for $45.

Doors for the show will open at 7 p.m., with music beginning at 8 p.m.



Skrillex blasts the NYS Fairgrounds

The DJ bumped booming bass at the Center of Progress Building just outside Syracuse.

Right before he went on, stage crew tore down the black curtain obstructing the mysterious white structure that would house Skrillex for his set Tuesday at the New York State Fairgrounds.

The icy castle-looking fortress with an embedded stage in front towered above the crowd. Angular shapes protruded from each side of the stage, contributing to the futuristic feel. But it wass when Skrillex finally fired up his Macbook that things started to get interesting.

A spaceship, aliens and other extraterrestrial imagery projected onto the backdrop. A few songs in, a motion-captured representation of Skrillex’s movements were depicted as a colossal alien silhouette.

And if the visuals sound overwhelming, Skrillex’s signature booming low-end bass was almost overbearing in the cavernous Center for Progress Building.

Over 4,000 people danced, incessantly bounced up and down and improvised adrenaline-fueled limb movements to Skrillex’s unique brand of pulsating bass drops. The entire 71,000-square-foot building, used a few months earlier to house huge agriculture displays at the New York State Fair, packed an audience that was equal parts Ed Hardy and Hot Topic snugly into the huge, open dance floor.

“Tonight, we’re all friends,” Skrillex shouted from the stage as concertgoers held up lighters, cellphones and glow sticks to commemorate his Mothership Tour landing in Syracuse. Also known as Sonny Moore, formerly the frontman of the post-hardcore band From First to Last, Skrillex bumped up the capacity for this show after playing at the Westcott Theater last February.

His set mixed popular favorites “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and “First of the Year” with remixes of songs “Welcome to Jamrock” by Damian Marley and even “Big Poppa” by Notorious B.I.G. But, all of his songs featured bass drops that shook the entire building, varying from peppy club beats to slower, calculated dubstep beats.

Though the bass sounded low and full, the mid and high-range tones echoed in the vast openness of the building. This was mildly distracting from the performance, but the crowd seemed mainly concerned with buildups and bass drops, so it didn’t have much of an overall impact.

The futuristic visuals throughout the set complemented the techy, metallic sound of Skrillex’s breakdowns. He even premiered an unnamed new song, which featured the lowest rumbling bass of the night while Skrillex stood in front of an image of what seemed to be a Transformer’s chestplate.

The crowd loved every minute— only stopping periodically to rest before continuing another long haul of dancing and thrashing. Skrillex’s tunes rarely relented, and kept driving steady, punchy bass to the crowd, who had no complaints. An overwhelming majority of the crowd came specifically for this reason, and was pleased with Skrillex’s club-techno leanings in his live set.

The result was Skrillex professing his love for Syracuse the only way the jet-black haired, hipster-framed glasses sporting artist could.

“This was seriously one of my favorite shows in my entire life,” Skrillex shouted after his set, jumping on opener 12th Planet’s back and coercing him to chaffeur him around the stage.

But, however effective Skrillex’s aesthetic overload was during his hour-plus set, it was painfully obvious that he was in a different class than the openers.

The bass-hungry crowd waited almost three hours to get their first taste of dubstep, as the first act, Nadastrom featured two DJs sporting red solo cups and an itchy trigger finger on the generic techno siren sound, played uninspired original club mixes to a lukewarm reception.

Next up was hip-hop jam band Two Fresh, who added a Macbook and a live drummer to fill out its live sound. The band added a dynamic with the live drummer and hip-hop and reggae influenced dance rhythms, but ultimately fell flat as songs came equipped without calculated bass drops and buildups and instead focused on slowly developing songs and rhythms.

After them, the first dubstep-influenced DJ and Skrillex warm-up 12th Planet ignited the crowd. His first dubstep drop struck a chord with the crowd, who became reanimated. 12th Planet mixed club techno with dubstep sensibilities to create the best of both worlds and involved everyone in the diverse crowd.

In the dim lighting, it was hard to tell who had tattoos and who was wearing body paint, though there was an equal mix of each. There was an even dichotomy with all-black clothing and fluorescent colors, groups of college students dressed in white shirts with body paint and groups of people with tattoos and a handful of face piercings. The diverse crowd brought a different dynamic to the show, and breathed personality into a show about expressing oneself through dance.

And it’s safe to say that those who went to the Skrillex show came for mainly one reason— to be sledgehammered with bass.

“When the beat drops, you know if you’ll like it or not,” said a neon, traffic-vest green shirt sporting teenager from behind plastic sunglasses outside the show.

Most liked it. So much so, in fact, that 12th Planet also declared Syracuse’s prominence on the Mothership Tour’s circuit.

“Swear to God, this is the best show of the entire tour,” he said.

10 minutes with B.o.B

The hip-hop newcomer talks about college shows, 9/11, his kazoo and his next album

Last year was busy for B.o.B, aka Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr. Between releasing his debut album and two mixtapes and appearing on songs by Eminem, Kesha, Big Boi, Lupe Fiasco and The Roots, the 22-year-old has firmly cemented his spot as a newcoming force to be reckoned with. Even MTV says so.

With that in mind, The NewsHouse's Otto-Tune blog decided to sit down for an interview with him after his 9/11 Juice Jam set. B.o.B. at Juice Jam 2011

The NewsHouse: What do you like in playing to a university setting like Syracuse? How is that different from playing any other show?

B.o.B: I think it's always the energy, because every school isn't the same. So there’s always a different type of energy with what you get from a crowd depending on where you are and what time of year it is. My favorite, coincidentally, is outdoor shows at night because I came up performing a lot of festivals, just getting like a five minute soundcheck. Like South by Southwest, I feel in my element at these type of shows.

NH: You bring a full band as your backdrop, and that's where you come from instrumentally playing guitar and trumpet. Do you play other instruments too?

B.o.B: A little bit of trumpet, I really play the hell out of the kazoo though, it's my forte.

NH: Do you like having the backdrop of the full band rather than just sampling?

B.o.B: It just adds more energy, and we play off the crowd more. Honestly, it's like everybody’s in the band, and the crowd is part of the band too. You have the drums, the keyboard, in the crowd. When it all gels together it’s beautiful.

NH: Today holds some significance with the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Was there any more emotion up there tonight?

B.o.B: Definitely, I think the energy was in the air. I think people were definitely conscious of it, but I think people just celebrated in remembrance of the event, which gives it that extra oomph. That extra energy in the yell and the scream.

NH: Do you remember where you were when you first heard the news?

B.o.B: I was in middle school, in seventh grade, and they didn’t turn the TVs on. They actually didn’t tell us what happened. They were like, "No one turn the TVs on," so I didn’t find out until I got home. Yeah, that was a crazy time. That was 10 years ago.

NH: Any future plans you can share with us after previewing a new song tonight?

B.o.B: It’s going to come very, very soon. I think I'm just as impatient as everybody else. But, you know, I've got to do things the right way. But, it's the first single off the upcoming album. Title is TBA. But I can say that I'm mostly 90 percent with the album. I really spent most of this year recording it, so I feel really good about it.

NH: Is there anyone out there you haven't collaborated with yet that you would like to, or that we’ll be surprised about when we hear the new album?

B.o.B: Man, that's a good question. I think working with Kid Cudi would be dope. I’ve never worked with Cudi before.