Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vintage Vinyl #1 - Me and Mark Mulcahy

Greetings all, this is the first entry in our series of vinyl reviews.  I’ll be pulling from my father’s records for the most part, doing profiles of a diverse selection of classic records, from 70s country-rockabilly to German prog rock to power pop gems, both obscure and well known.  Today we feature one of our own records, the debut EP from New Haven’s Miracle Legion, the fondly remembered (if less than famed) Mark Mulcahy fronted act.

Disclaimer We at Merry Picnic have an irrational, near fanboyish love of Miracle Legion, Polaris, and Mark Mulcahy himself.  Ciao, My Shining Star (the covers album produced in honor of his late wife, Melissa) was one of 2009’s best releases and the record release party at Toad’s in New Haven was one of 2009’s better shows.  Any concert featuring the lead singer of Polaris on stage with both Big Pete and Little Pete (Mike Maronna & Danny Tamberelli) is a dream come true for anyone who grew up on 90s Nickelodeon.  In fact, we would like make a formal request that Mark tour soon, so we can get the live experience that we’ve been deprived of these last two years.  Expect features on further albums and upcoming shows as they (hopefully) come up.

Connecticut’s premier jangle pop act of the 80s, Miracle Legion was largely based around the songs and stylings of frontman/guitarist Mark Mulcahy and lead guitarist Mr. Ray Neal.  This collaboration reached its peak on Miracle Legion’s 1989 LP, Me and Mr. Ray, showcasing the duo on a more acoustic album than their previous output.  However, it was 1984 that saw the debut of the pair as part of Miracle Legion with The Backyard EP.  Featuring the original line-up, with percussionist Jeff Wiederschall and bassist Joel Potocsky, The Backyard serves as an archetype for Miracle Legion’s sound: jangly guitars, lyrics evocative of youth and childhood, and Mulcahy’s trademarked vocals.

Prior to acquiring this 12” EP from a Danbury-based vendor at New London’s always-fantastic I Am Fest (I was too excited buying this to get the store’s name), I had only heard Dinosaur Jr.’s cover of the title track.  They added their characteristic vocals and distorted guitars to the song, while still remaining true to Miracle Legion’s style and sound.  The original track does not disappoint, with a quicker tempo and driving percussion making for a more upbeat tune.  The rest of the EP stays in that vein, with tracks like “Butterflies” evoking later tunes like “All for the Best” off their first full length release, Surprise Surprise Surprise.  The album ends on a slower, calmer note with the plaintive sounds of “Stephen, Are You There?”

The audio embedded below is a live performance of the EP’s title track for nostalgia’s sake, but ultimately, The Backyard isn’t so much about the individual songs, but the experience of hearing them together.  Any of Miracle Legion’s or Mulcahy’s output immediately puts you in your backyard on a late August afternoon, listening to rock music, maybe firing up the grill, but certainly glad that for once, in that moment, you can relax.  You’ve got less important things to do.

Until next time,


Monday, September 27, 2010

Waiting for October - Fall Concert Previews

As summer winds down, so does the concert season, or does it?  The days may be shorter, but the nights are longer, and there are still plenty of shows this fall at venues of all sizes as we find ourselves waiting for October. 

·      While not quite in October, indie darlings Ra Ra Riot will play an intimate show at Toad’s Place September 27th, having performed to large crowds at All Points West and B.O.M.B. Fest in recent years.  They are currently touring for their new LP The Orchard, once again showcasing indie rock sensibilities with the added depth of their string arrangements.  Mexican group Chikita Violenta as well as We Barbarians will be supporting.

·      Mates of State will be bringing their unique style of indie-pop to the Webster Underground September 29th, with Oh Land and CT psych-rockers M.T. Bearington opening.  They’ve recently released “Crushes: The Covers Mixtape”, showcasing their take on a diverse selection of artists ranging from Daniel Johnston to Belle & Sebastian to The Mars Volta.  Having just played New London’s I Am Fest, this is another opportunity to see this nationally-touring local act in state, which is co-sponsored by our friends at Manic Productions.

·     Bob Saget @ QU

A far cry from his days as Danny Tanner, Bob Saget has built a reputation for his unexpectedly, unabashedly raunchy humor, as exemplified by appearances in Half Baked and The Aristocrats (embedded below).  Showcasing anecdotes of his Full House days (such as Dave “You Oughta Know” Coulier shaving his balls) and what are hopefully just jokes (claiming to have banged Kimmy Gibbler), Saget will provide a night of 90s nostalgia and riotous laughter to the college crowd at Quinnipiac University October 2nd.

·      Oct 9th-15th Manic Productions

A trio of upcoming Manic shows further prove that concert season does not end with summer, starting off October 9th with I Am Fest alums We Are Scientists playing Daniel Street in Milford.  The experimental electropop act The Octopus Project supports (having moved from CafĂ© Nine), with Jerkagram opening.

After paying homage to Joy Division at this summer’s return of the Brooklyn Pool Parties (a set sadly lacking in vocals from Satomi), Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu bring their own tunes about pandas, basketball, and milkmen to Daniel Street October 12th.  The Italian trio Father Murphy opens, rounding out the experimental nature of the night’s acts.

Ending the week on October 15th is a performance from Raleigh-based indie rockers The Love Language, who are currently on the rise after playing North Carolina’s inaugural Hopscotch Festival.  Their current LP, Libraries, is one of 2010’s best releases, making this a can’t miss show at Lilly’s Pad {Toad’s Place upstairs} with Pomegranates and 1 supporting act tba.

·      October 15th – Roger Waters The Wall

               Now that I’ve referred to The Love Language as a “can’t miss” show, the above image is the reason I’ll be missing it.  This fall, Pink Floyd bassist/vocalist Roger Waters once again will be touring his magnum opus/concept album behemoth “The Wall”.  For the first time since the original “tour” in 1980, the theatrics of the stage show will be combined with classic animation sequences from the film version to allow fans to experience “The Wall” as it was intended.  Waters is setting out to “do it right” this time, hitting ~30 cities as compared to the scant four originally visited and eschewing the tension of Pink Floyd’s impending breakup.  Original set and lighting designers are involved as well, giving a feeling of nostalgia and authenticity to the entire production.  Floyd’s guitarist, David Gilmour, will even be joining Waters onstage at one performance, though the likelihood of that being in Hartford is slim.  The XL Center plays host to what is sure to be an unforgettable performance of one of the best selling albums of all time on October 15th.

·      October 16th – Tower of Power

After “funkifizing” Hamden’s summer concert series, Tower of Power brings their horn-based old school funk to the Wolf’s Den at Mohegan.  Seeing them for free in Hamden was easily one of the best concerts of the summer, and having the opportunity to see another free performance in such a relaxed setting is a real treat.  Nothing beats getting drink service at a 2-cent slot machine with a direct view of the stage, and we’ll be sure not to miss it.

Use the comments below to let us know about what October concert you’re most excited for, or anything else we’ve missed.  You can look forward to reviews/reports from many of these shows in the upcoming weeks.  Until then, happy trails.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review: They Might Be Giants at Mohegan Sun - 9/25

View of They Might Be Giants from the Edge of the Wolf Den.
Everyone kept telling us to get to this show early, but there are much better ways to go about seeing a Wolf Den show than waiting in line for 3 hours. They Might Be Giants performed a free fan appreciation show in the Wolf Den in Mohegan Sun on Saturday at 8, and when we got to the Earth casino, where the Wolf Den is, we saw a pretty long line - and it was just before 5. After stopping for dinner, the line spanned even further, wrapping around much of the area. The Wolf Den is pretty small, and there was no way all those people were getting seats. Also, everyone in line can hold a spot for up to 4 people. Not sure who was policing that, but taking that fact into account, only the people in the front half of the line could get seats.

I'm not saying that if you're a big fan of a band you shouldn't wait in line for a long time to get a close seat, but I just liked the way we went about it better. We found areas we could see from the edge of the Wolf Den, and we could still walk around and set up at slot machines, thus getting drinks delivered to us. And you can see the show from a lot of the slot machines, so it was a pretty sweet deal. 

A blurry zoom-in of They Might Be Giants.
And They Might Be Giants gave a really fun performance, bringing in extra band members for a complete horn section and playing lots of their better-known nerd rock songs. You could feel the fan appreciation. The people up front had foam No. 1's and they raised them just as the band came out playing some of The Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" to pump everyone up. There wasn't really a bad spot in the house if you wanted to watch the band - there were people standing on the edge, and lots of people who were at the casino anyway popping in to check it out - but there was a big screen above the stage so we could still see some stuff projected. That was cool because there were some songs that included a puppet show. They Might Be Giants played for about an hour and a half, performing lots of familiar stuff like "Birdhouse in Your Soul," "Particle Man,""Doctor Worm" and "Mesopotamians." They came back for an encore - "Istanbul," of course - tearing on the acoustic guitar in the beginning and ending with a bang.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Weekend!

Greetings and hello to you all, on this last Friday of summer, and welcome to Merry Picnic.  We are still but a fledgling blog, but we will have posts on upcoming concerts, vintage vinyl, fall activities, tailgating tips, seasonal beverages, and more.  Essentially I'll just be writing about whatever I feel like.  I'll leave it to Freesia to make this anything more than my vanity project.

But enough about that, it's Friday! Kick back, grab a Schaefer, watch some football, and get ready for all the apple cake and pumpkin beer that autumn has in store for us.

Until next time,


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

About Us

Garrett and I have wanted to work on a blog together for a while now, and there's no better time to start than now. For the past few years I'd been blogging on my own at http://freesiasingngam.blogspot.com/, but I really feel that we can reach out to more people and cover more things with a staff of two, and not just one. Also, now that I've started law school, I don't have as much time to blog as I did as an undergraduate or as a local news reporter.

Merry Picnic will cover a lot of the things "The Freesia Fix" did, but it's going to be a lot more than that. You'll find concert reviews and previews for upcoming events, but you'll also find interesting things you can do in the Connecticut area and ways to save money and still be entertained on weekends.

If you have any suggestions for us, send them to merrypicnic@gmail.com. 

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll enjoy reading.

- Freesia