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Comic, TV personality Dan St. Germain performs at Syracuse's Funny Bone tonight

The red-bearded, long-haired, lumberjack-looking comedian stops by Destiny USA's Funny Bone comedy club tonight on a run through Upstate and Central New York cities.

Comedian Dan St. Germain, best known for his cultural critiquing on VH1's Best Week Ever and his appearances on the late-night talk show circuit, performs at Syracuse's Funny Bone club tonight at 7:30.

While casual comedy fans may have caught the burly, bearded St. Germain on Comedy Central during a half-hour stand-up special, he's also popped up on listicles both on the web and in print -- earning a mention as one of Variety's 10 comics to watch and one of Paste's underrated comics of 2013.

But to St. Germain, the buzz is fleeting.

"The only people who are famous are people who are famous, you know what I mean?" St. Germain said. "I’m just on a couple lists."

That doesn't mean he's not grateful to be mentioned, St. Germain said. But most folks who come out to comedy shows don't necessarily want to hear comedians talking about being comedians or enjoying the spoils of mid-level success. "If I’m doing the Funny Bone in Syracuse in a mall, I don’t think anyone’s gonna wanna hear about my process," St. Germain said.

Instead, Germain focuses his act around the basics of everyday life in the 21st century: cheap whiskey, Twitter bios and attempting to pleasure himself without the saving graces of wireless connectivity.

Twitter, he said, is an interesting outlet for keeping his comedy chops sharp. If St. Germain comes up with a one-line joke, he'll often tweet it out, and that will be the end. But if it's something he particularly likes, he might slip it into a larger bit in his act as a "laugh-line," or just a quick quip. Writing comedy in the realm of 140 characters is challenging, St. Germain said, so a tweet is typically just a tweet.

"I find that if you can encapsulate the entire joke, the entire premise in a tweet, it usually means it’s just for a tweet," he said. "It usually means there’s no more legs for it."

The material that makes it to the stage does have legs, St. Germain said. As a general practice, he tries to open with a couple of road-tested strong jokes that consistently get big laughs. This response up front sets the rhythm for his entire set, St. Germain said, and rhythm is one of the most crucial elements a comedian uses on stage. A good laugh from one joke can help set the tone for the following one.

Other times, it's worth diving right in with a completely fresh joke.

"A typical green thing to do, which I still do now, is you start out with something new, and every once in a while it works like gangbusters, especially if it’s really topical," St. Germain said. "Other times, you shoot yourself in the foot that way."

St. Germain is currently developing a multi-camera show for Fox and hopes to hear back about its pilot potential early next year. In the meantime, he's on the road, running through his scatter-brained comedy set and hoping to get laughs where he can.

"I wish I could say I had a modus operandi or something," he said. "But it’s usually just, 'Hey this is funny…I think.'"

Photo from sfsketchfest.com.

Cram this!: Six songs to help you study

Give your head a break from cramming for finals and treat your ears to these five home-stretch tunes instead.

We get it -- finals week is tough. If you're not frantically trying to cram names and dates into your noggin, you're likely pounding out a term paper in the midnight hour. I speak from experience here. Luckily, music is always here to help. The next time you're feeling overwhelmed by the finals-week blues, try these six songs instead and get back on track to earning that 100 percent emoji on all your tests.

Explosions in the Sky: "Let Me Back In" (2011)

No musicians today can create sonic ebbs and flows better than EITS. With no vocalist in the band, all four members are free to make a clamor on their respective instruments, which they do (especially here). But at over 10 minutes in length, "Let Me Back In" will help you close your Pinterest browser tab and ease back into your statistics homework without you ever realizing any time has passed at all. This band is that good.

Aphex Twin: "Rhubarb" (1994)

Richard D. James, the freaky Brit behind Aphex Twin, is known more for his glitchy tech-infused electronic music than his mellow, dreamlike side. But when he wants to get quiet, he get downright silent. This track, one of 25 in a collection of entirely ambient music (seriously), evokes nebulous images of clouds, galaxial skies and abstract webs of warmth capable of making us feel safe in the womb again -- or uber-focused on our history notes.

Jon Brion: "Phone Call" (2003)

Through his collaborations with Kanye West and Fiona Apple, Jon Brion has proven his worth as a forward-thinking musician and producer. His film scores, though, remain some of his most refined work. Taken from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, "Phone Call" is infantile crib music for when you need to turn your head off for a while and just follow your feels.

Neu!: "Hallogallo" (1972)

As I've mentioned before, Neu! is one of the bands I can't seem to get out of my personal rotation in 2014. When you need a pickmeup after Aphex Twin and Jon Brion have brought you down, reach for "Hallogallo," the song that effectively invented the motorik drum beat. That's the nonstop percussion that will pep you back up and keep you focused on that nine-pager due in just under four hours. Dawn creeping up. Walls creeping in. Neu! creeping you out?

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross: "In Motion" (2010)

Like a musical cup of coffee, "In Motion" sets you down a path to jittery productivity. Though it may have been created to soundtrack the creation of Facebook -- which, as we know, is the ultimate slayer of school work -- this song can help you narrow in on the task at hand. Just make sure to stick around 'til the end for the quirky, colorful and cool synth freakout.

R.E.M.: "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" (1987)

Repeat after me: Finals week is not the end of the world as we know it, and you do indeed feel fine. Don't believe yourself? Keep reciting it. Make it a personal mantra for your success. And if all else fails, take a detour from your textbooks and study the words to this song instead to impress your family and friends (or a karaoke crowd). That tuition money should go to something, after all.

Photo: chiarashine via Flickr

Billy Joel to perform at the Carrier Dome

The legendary piano man will stop by Syracuse March 20, officials announced this morning.

Last week, entertainment juggernaut AEG Live tipped off local media about an upcoming concert announcement, something they billed as "major."

It doesn't get much more major than Billy Joel.

AEG Live and Carrier Dome officials announced this morning that Joel, a revered pop icon who has spent more than four decades in the musical spotlight, will play the Dome on March 20, 2015. The date has been confirmed via Joel's official website.

More information will be available later as the details emerge. In the meantime, let's start the debate about Joel's most quintessential song. It's clearly "Piano Man," right?

Jenny Lewis brings her sparkly songwriting to Ithaca

The former Rilo Kiley singer led a spirited, impressive, career-spanning solo show at the State Theatre of Ithaca on Nov. 8.

Inside the State Theatre of Ithaca Saturday night, it might as well have been 1978. Jenny Lewis, the former lead singer of Rilo Kiley who’s now fortifying an impressive solo career, wears her sonic influences proudly.

That’s not a slight, either. One look at the cover of her new solo LP, The Voyager, reveals the evidence for what makes this charismatic, confessional songwriter so winsome: her sense of self. Throughout The Voyager’s tour circuit, Lewis has unironically sported a rainbow-sparkle pantsuit too exuberant for Stevie Nicks (but perfect for Gram Parsons). The Ithaca show was no exception.

Lewis took the stage in full Laurel Canyon-meets-Studio 54 regalia, diving straight into energetic new album cuts “Head Underwater” and “Just One of the Guys.” The rich new material sprang to life, oscillating between Fleetwood Mac and pseudo-Eagles twang, with the help of a pulsating six-piece backing band, including her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice (with a perfectly Allmanesque hunch over his Gibson SG). The band even delved into disco, covering the Grateful Dead’s funky “Shakedown Street.” The best trick in Lewis’ set, though, was how she beautifully recalled her own past, not just that of her idols.

In a career-spanning show, Lewis dipped into tunes from her previous two solo records: 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat, recorded with the Watson Twins; and 2008’s Acid Tongue. During the sprawling “The Next Messiah,” Lewis hopped on a platform, winking and pointing her microphone like a pop preacher. In fact, she spent half of the show guitarless, letting her band do the heavy lifting musically. This freed her arms to connect more directly to the crowd, which she did exceptionally well pacing the stage, shimmying and singing “The Moneymaker” and “Pretty Bird.”

Saturday night shows tend to be well received, but Lewis’s stop in Ithaca had the crowd roaring, especially at the older Rilo Kiley material. “With Arms Outstretched” and “A Better Son/Daughter” saw Lewis don a guitar to strum the stirring open chords and sing to the ceiling. Audience members sang along, and some even cried. Lewis cried, too, and the takeaway was obvious: These songs mean a lot to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Lewis knows this, which is why she made The Voyager (with a little help from producers Ryan Adams and Beck) gleam like crystal champagne in a mansion on a big Hollywood hill. The stakes are simply too high now to disappoint.

Though Lewis’s songs can be dark with drug-addled and confused characters, the music nearly always exits triumphantly. The same can’t be said for openers Girlpool, a California duo with angsty notebook lyrics and shrill harmonies. Their music, while beautiful and striking, doesn’t work toward uplifting choruses or major-key resolution. It’s just one bass, one guitar and a lot of quietly dazzling emotional complexity — all wonderful things, if a bit subdued compared to Lewis’s glamor. But Girlpool, with their “Something in the Way”-via-First Aid Kit aesthetics, are a band to watch.

And so is this new incarnation of Lewis’s career. She’s never been more confident or more profound, and it’s exciting to she where she’ll go from here. In the meantime, The Voyager will keep us warm (and wanting more).

Photos by Love Lee.

EDM group Cash Cash to perform at second Bandersnatch concert

The New Jersey dance-pop trio will bring their electronic melodies to the Schine Underground on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Update (Nov. 4): Julian Nelums, an SU student, won a DJ competition to open for Cash Cash, according to University Union social media updates.

The masses have called for more electronic dance music, and University Union has responded in kind.

Tonight, UU announced Cash Cash, an EDM pop group from New Jersey, will perform at the second Bandersnatch show of the semester on Wednesday, Nov. 12. As usual, tickets for the show, which will be held at the Schine Underground, are $5 with an SU/ESF student ID and can be purchased at the Schine box office.

You've probably heard Cash Cash's "Take Me Home," an unrelenting slice of electronic pop, while helping your little brother shop for jeans at American Eagle, or possibly at an 18-and-over club. If you haven't, check out the music video below. Or spin "Lightning," a clone of that song with the Goo Goo Dolls' Johnny Rzeznik on vocals, instead.

Surprisingly, the band (comprised of two brothers and a friend) have been around since 2002, though they've seen some lineup changes and genre-hopping. They began as Hot Topic-ready dance rock, toured with Forever the Sickest Kids, and later soundtracked Jersey Shore episodes before settling into their present comfy EDM routine.

Now, they're prepping a new album due out in 2015.

Booking acts like Cash Cash (and other crunchy digital musicmakers) is proof that SU students don't want to see live music anymore. They'd much prefer a party — no matter who's pushing the buttons to make it happen on stage.

Intriguing new Thom Yorke LP ultimately more about marketing than music

Review: The Radiohead frontman steps back into the studio for an eight-song experimental album that isn't worth much past its delivery method.

Like plenty of music makers in 2014, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke hates the corporate hold on the industry. But Yorke is actively working to change it, devising new ways to deliver music directly to listeners without any major-label meddling.

On Sept. 26, Yorke released Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, his second solo album, via the file-sharing network BitTorrent — no label, no interference and not much advance warning. Unfortunately, its means of delivery is a good bit more memorable than the music itself.

The eight-song LP begins with the kind of underwater electronic bass warble we’ve come to expect from Radiohead songs like “Idioteque” and “Backdrifts,” suggesting that he’s become dependent on it as a songwriting spark. The latest instance, “A Brain in a Bottle,” improves only once his snaky falsetto creeps in to lift the song from its murky Aphex Twin glitch envy. Yorke’s experimentation thankfully carries him further from the rock realm as he continues to build a burgeoning electronic solo portfolio.

The problem with any new Yorke material is how sharply it reveals his need for collaborators to complete his ideas. The sleepy “Truth Ray” can't move past a drab electro crawl. At six minutes, “The Mother Lode” properly swells and recedes at the crucial moments but overstays its welcome.

And then Yorke moves to the most intriguing and worthwhile portion of the album — its puzzling, charming, frustrating three-part conclusion.

Thom Yorke - A Brain In A Bottle (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from Tommaso Colella on Vimeo.

The sound collage “There Is No Ice (For My Drink)” begins it with a synthesized pingpong rhythm and chopped-up vocal samples before moving into downright ghostly territory. Still, its quirkiness doesn’t negate the pesky notion that it’s more of a studio experiment than a finished track. The melodic fragments work well enough, but not as well as similar electronic songs like Jamie xx’s “All Under One Roof Raving" and Disclosure’s “When a Fire Starts to Burn.”

Once the clamor settles, Yorke glides into “Pink Section,” a wonderful passage of atmospheric noise that’s as sweet as anything he has done on his own since The Eraser’s “Atoms for Peace.”

The closer, “Nose Grows Some,” is even sweeter. Blending Radiohead’s spacey sensibilities with Yorke’s own continued ambient dalliances, “Nose” dazzles in its nuances. An expertly arranged wallpaper of synthesized tones makes the track breathe, and the frenetic drums provide a crunchy texture. This is a song you can taste.

The ultimate disappointment with Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is how “Nose” is the album’s true starting point. After its highest peak — a vocal pivot into a quick giddy shriek — “Nose” simply recedes into itself. As soon as Yorke finds this moment, he doesn’t know where to go next, so he ends the song on a disappointing hobble.

Through a few bright flashes, Yorke again proves his worth as one of the most creative and forward-thinking musicians of his generation. But if he devoted half as much time to the music as he did its presentation, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes might have ended up essential, not a B entry on a career report card of (nearly) straight As.

Syracuse students listen to Coldplay, Jack Johnson and Sublime, survey says

A study conducted by a software application writer charted college students' SAT scores over their top 'liked' musical artists on Facebook.

Though you may think it easy to spot a Jack Johnson fan via his flip-flops or a Sublime listener via her penchant for Rastafarian colors, one researcher has shown that all you need to do is look at SAT scores. That's his plan, anyway.

According to data pulled in by tech entrepreneur Virgil Griffith, students at Syracuse University enjoy listening to Coldplay, Jack Johnson and Sublime the most -- at least, that's what their test scores would suggest.

Here's how he came to such a conclusion.

Griffith, a former scientist at the California Institute of Technology, looked at the average SAT scores of 1,352 colleges in the United States. He examined which musical artists the students at those schools had "liked" on Facebook and took the top choice from each. Using that kind of scientific precision, Griffith was able to conclude that students at Caltech, who had an average SAT score of 1520, liked Radiohead the most -- thereby making the unscientifically supported leap that those who like Radiohead are actually the smartest.

Students who preferred the pop stylings of Beyoncé or the hip-hop musings of Lil Wayne or Jay-Z, however, tended to score lower on their tests -- a staggering result that's effectively the faux-scientific equivalent of 2deep4u, man.

Griffith also ranked each school's top 10 liked musical artists. For Caltech, Pink Floyd and Coldplay were just behind Radiohead. For Syracuse students, who Griffith found to have an average SAT score of 1225, The Beatles and Billy Joel rounded out the top five. Pink Floyd, John Mayer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers and Radiohead all followed in the top 10.

As tenuous as these results may be, Griffith's research has made one thing abundantly clear: American college kids really like Radiohead. And if you have a problem with that, maybe this guy needs to set you straight.

Bela Lugosi's Dead: Ten songs to soundtrack your Halloween 2014

Some are spooky, some are campy and some are just really good -- but none should be overlooked when compiling your ultimate trick-or-treat mood music.

Forget the witch decorations and the viral-ready jack-o-lanterns: No Halloween is complete without a killer playlist. For 2014, we compiled a little bit of everything -- gothic guitars, stuttering electronics, filthy hip-hop hypotheticals -- for a 10-song soundtrack for your undead endeavors. Prime your Spotify account with these tracks to make yourself the star DJ of this year's Halloween parties.

1. Bauhaus: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (1979)

As impossible as it was to kill Dracula, it only took a heart attack to bring down the actor who immortalized him. English gothic rock band Bauhaus sought out to honor Lugosi in the late '70s with this gloomy, torturous track that features vocalist Peter Murphy crooning in hundreds of directions at once. Perfect with strobe light accompaniment in your DIY garage haunted house.

2. Aphex Twin: "Come to Daddy (Pappy Mix Version)" (1997)

If austere goth rock doesn't make your skin crawl, glitchy millennium anxiety definitely will. Aphex Twin has made it a career goal to be as disturbing as possible, even digitally embedding demonic faces inside his songs. But few things are as horrifying as the tech dread of a robotic apocalypse present in this mix of "Come to Daddy." Play through a megaphone to keep those pesky kids away.

3. Neu!: "Sonderangebot" (1972)

We've pretty much gone off the rails here, so let's go even further down the rabbit hole. Less of a song and more of a eerie sound collage, "Sonderangebot" (German for "special offer") features distant screaming interspersed with loud rattling noises. It's less "Halloween spooky" and more "nightmarishly horrifying," but hey, if you're going for scary, you might as well go full monty.

4. Radiohead: "Climbing Up the Walls" (1997)

Radiohead know how to craft a compellingly frightening song. The intentionally backmasked "Like Spinning Plates" still terrifies, and "Bodysnatchers" is as paranoid as its title suggests. But nothing chills like the psychological horror of "Climbing Up the Walls," a "Comfortably Numb" for the technological age without the narcotic-induced contentment.

5. Kanye West: "Monster" (2010)

Self-aggrandizing rants, expensive temper tantrums, disgusting entitlement issues...Everybody knows Kanye West is a monster. But it becomes abundantly clear on this song, thanks to guest vocalists Rick Ross, Bon Iver, Jay-Z and a greener Nicki Minaj, who steals the spotlight with her schizophrenic delivery. Be warned, parents: This track, though safe for grown-up Halloween parties, is entirely NSFW (and for your kids).

6. The Ramones: "Chain Saw" (1976)

OK, the Ramones weren't necessarily a scary band, unless your mother worried that punk (and leather jackets) would turn your mind to filth. Whether that happened or not is up for debate. "Chain Saw," a high-energy slice of motorized rock from the band's 1976 debut, re-frames the events of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the mind of a bored, lovesick teen. Dismemberment rock never sounded so fun.

7. Wu-Tang Clan: "Method Man" (1993)

On the Wu's 1993 debut, Method Man got his own song to spill all the vile, horrific yet somewhat comical things he'd do to those who questioned his rap game. The result is six minutes of unrelenting proto-Hostel torture porn that also showcases Meth's uncanny ability to pack each line with as much wacky, slimy charm as possible. This one's for the giddy post-trick-or-treating sugar high.

8. Oingo Boingo: "Dead Man's Party" (1985)

Danny Elfman, the leader of '80s new wavers Oingo Boingo, is probably best known for his musical work on Tim Burton films (or The Simpsons theme). But in 1985, he crafted "Dead Man's Party," a colorful, jittery work of synthetic rock that wouldn't be out of place at a Dia de los Muertos celebration. Need to inject a little energy into your lethargic Halloween party guests? Make it a "Dead Man's Party" and see what happens.

9. The Velvet Underground: "Venus in Furs" (1967)

"Shiny, shiny / Shiny boots of leather," Lou Reed intones to begin "Venus in Furs," a haunting drone that tackles the terrors of what goes on behind locked doors in the most secret places. It's hard to say what makes "Venus" so sinister: the violent viola scrapes, the unwavering heartbeat drums, the menacing Middle Eastern-influenced guitar. All of it amounts to a fiendish exploration of the dark corners of worlds interior and exterior.

10. Michael Jackson: "Thriller" (1983)

Does "Thriller" really need an explanation? It's the quintessential Halloween song penned by the most skilled mainstream songwriter of his time (and maybe even ours). It's the highest peak of pop perfectionism, marrying an infectious groove with a soaring chorus that manages to evoke both ecstatic joy and genuine drive-in movie horror. Vincent Price's exit narration sets the song aloft in a space of its own, a hallowed spot where strategically crafted music intersects with strong emotional resonance. This is "Thriller" indeed.

Baldwinsville Theatre Guild puts on the Ritz with 'Young Frankenstein'

Review: A small theater in Baldwinsville pulls off a big, colorful, musical production of the beloved 1974 film starring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle.

Editor's note: This review originally appeared at Green Room Reviews on October 24, 2014.

Seeing the Young Frankenstein title in marquee-light typeface, signaling its adaptation into a musical, is fitting. One of the quirkiest and most endearing scenes in the 1974 film finds the titular doctor and his creature glitz it up to “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” complete with tuxedos, top hats and a coordinated routine — how positively showbiz. But a larger question looms: Is a Young Frankenstein musical necessary?

The answer, as it turns out, is no, but you can’t blame Mel Brooks for trying. You certainly can’t blame the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild, either, for putting on the show. It’s amazing how the theater company’s staff transformed the tiny performance space at the First Presbyterian Church into a big, boisterous dwelling for musicality and general panache. The performance features a tight-knit cast of local stage veterans and newbies alike coming together in a raucous, lively show that stays mostly in tune with its source material.

There are, however, some serious flaws with the script itself. Every subtle joke in the film is dragged out to interminable lengths in order to milk them for maximum comedic worth. By the end of the 90-minute long first act, there’s more fatigue than giggling. The Frau Blucher horse joke? Referenced until the laughs dry up. The Fronk-un-steen pronunciation corrections? Mentioned dozens of times, each unfunnier than the last.

But those are problems with Brooks’ book itself, not the Baldwinsville performance, which remains charming and spirited in its impressively deft execution. Having most of the stage covered with set pieces doesn’t leave much room for quick scene changes, but the crew’s diligent work during the dark interludes keeps the show moving ahead at an agreeable pace. The decor ends up somewhere between steampunk and period horror and completely fits the show’s campy idiosyncrasies.

The actors themselves shine through the bright lights, microphone crackles and the excessive artificial fog pouring out from an offstage smoke machine (for ambiance, clearly). Henry Wilson brings a humanistic yet smarmy edge to the upstart Dr. Frankenstein, and his chemistry with his creation (Derek Potocki) elicits a wonderful warmth from under the show’s kitschy spookiness. In fact, every actor with a castle-centric role — those playing Blucher, Inga and Igor as well — leaps into every slice of dialogue or song opportunity. They simply won’t let their moments go to waste.

And why would they? The music is too fun to not take in, staying glamorously cheeky during the rousing “Join the Family Business” and the seminal “Man About Town.” The Baldwinsville players stay loyal to the exaggerated, oily essence of this Hollywood tale, and what a show they summon when they pull it all together.

Though a Young Frankenstein musical is completely superfluous (the film will do fine, thanks), this performance makes for one heck of a pre-Halloween event. You might even say, “It’s alive!”

Photo courtesy of Amelia Beamish Photography

Comedian Kevin Hart to perform at Goldstein Auditorium

The frenetic actor and comic, known for his starring roles in 'Ride Along' and 'About Last Night,' will visit SU on Nov. 2 for a stand-up set and a Q-and-A/film screening.

Kevin Hart -- the manic, hyperactive comedian who graduated from hilarious bit player in Judd Apatow films to become a Hollywood-ready leading man -- will perform at Goldstein Auditorium on Nov. 2, University Union announced tonight.

Hart's appearance on campus will be split into two events. The first, an advance screening of his new film, The Wedding Ringer, will take place in the HBC Gifford Auditorium at 2 p.m. After the film, Hart and costar Josh Gad will sit for a Q-and-A session with the audience. The screening is free but requires a ticket for entry.

The second event, set to take place at 7 p.m., is a proper stand-up set in Goldstein. Tickets for the performance are $10 and go on sale tomorrow at the Schine box office to all SU and ESF students. UU tweeted tonight that there will be a two-ticket limit per person for the comedy performance.

A native of Philadelphia, Hart hopped around comedy clubs in the early 2000s before landing small but notable roles in films like Scary Movie 3 and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. This year, Hart has seen large-scale success at cinemas and on television, with a starring role on BET's Real Husbands of Hollywood. The Wedding Ringer is set to be released in theaters in January.

For a preview of Hart's adrenalized on-stage antics, watch the video below. Or just watch this video of him riding a roller coaster with Jimmy Fallon because, you know, everyone should.