Friday, September 7, 2012

I AM Fest Returns! (and so do we)

Oh hai, Merry Picnic! It's been a while... sorry.

But since one comeback deserves another, we're just in time to preview the triumphant return of New London's I Am Festival.

I Am Fest developed a steady following over it's first five years, drawing in such acts as Jay Reatard and Girl Talk in earlier incarnations, but consistently improving lineups year to year saw headliners such as Deerhoof, Mates of State, and We Are Scientists.  This is not to mention a veritable stable of up and coming local and national acts such as M.T. Bearington, The Hempsteadys, EULA, The Drums, Free Energy, and more who have appeared onstage.  After taking a hiatus in 2011, this year will be no different and better than ever.

Making the move from the pier to the heart of New London, the festival broadens signifcantly this year, with more music, more venues, more vendors, more restaurants, more parking.  Vendors will be set up at Parade Plaza and beer and wine will be for sale at Hygienic Art Park.  Smaller venues include The Telegraph and The Oasis Pub, both a stone's throw from the main stages.  Full information on parking, et al, is available at

But on the reason we're all going, the music!  The headliners are no strangers to CT, having headlined at BAR New Haven and opened up for Wild Flag at Toad's within the past year.  Hospitality brings their dichotomous twee pop with a distinct harder edge to the main stage at Parade Plaza.  I've always described the band as 'Belle & Sebastian with a killer guitarist', and these tracks prove my point.  Check out our previous post on key tune "The Right Profession", and dig the lead-off track ("Eight Avenue") from their self-titled debut.

Here's the full schedule from the I Am Fest page, including stages and addresses.  Our itinerary is in bold; we'll at least check out a couple songs from these bands.  Also, if M.T. Bearington is playing too late for you (it's way too late for us), you can catch them tonight at The Outer Space in Hamden.  The show is only $5 and features openers Great Elk and Goodnight Blue Moon (my new favorite local band). Stage at PARADE PLAZA
1:00 - 2:00 Frank Lo & The Fly Ones present The Nu Lo Order
2:30 - 3:15 Sidewalk Dave
4:00 - 4:45 The Hempsteadys
5:30 - 6:15 Sean Bones
7:00 - 7:45 Bearstronaut
8:30 - 9:15 Dom
10:00 - 11:00 Hospitality

3:15 - 4:00 Modern Merchant
4:45 - 5:30 Math The Band
6:15 - 7:00 Shake The Baron
7:45 - 8:30 Suicide Dolls
9:15 - 10:00 Bear Hands

OASIS PUB (16 Bank)
6:15p - 7:00p Ferocious Fucking Teeth
7:45p - 8:30p Fake Babies
11:00p - 11:45p Graverobbers
12:00a - 1:00a MT Bearington

1pm Haunt the House
2pm Sister Mary
3pm The Sea The Sea
4pm Sam Perduta of Elison Jackson
5pm Jesse Stanford of Heirlooms
6pm Street People

Friday, April 27, 2012

One of the Best Parts of the Daffodil Festival - The Music!

Mates of State at All Points West in 2008 (one of the first times we saw them).
Other than the food, what I look forward to most at the Daffodil Festival is the music. We've seen the likes of Mark Mulcahy and the Animals, and we've also seen tons of great local acts. This year, one of Merry Picnic's favorite bands, Mates of State, is taking the Jeff Crooms Welcome Stage right before the fireworks on Saturday night and playing into the fireworks. Before that, we're getting M.T. Bearington and The Guru, two local bands we've seen play often in the area. Throughout the weekend, we'll also see some Daffodil Festival regulars like Frank Critelli and The Bird 'n Boys with Ellen Sackman. 

It's actually no coincidence that we've seen a lot of the bands playing this weekend before. I spoke with Robbie DeRosa, who has been the music coordinator for the Daffodil Festival for the past 13 years, and he said that when he's scouting out bands to play the festival, he looks at what bands play around a lot because they're sure to have a local following and bring in a crowd. Also the host of a local music show, DeRosa listens to a lot of local music and chooses local bands that put out great records. He starts with a list of over 100 bands and has to narrow it down. 

This year, there are 37 bands playing the festival - more than ever before. The music used to start at 11 a.m. each day, but because the gate opens at 10 a.m., there will be bands playing at the very start of the festival to get people going as soon as they step off the shuttle bus. 

"I'm really thrilled," DeRosa said about the lineup. "Last year at the end of Sunday, I said I should quit. I didn't think I could do better." (And yet, this year, he did.) 

DeRosa said that when he plans the lineup each year, he starts with the fireworks show. This year, there will be two bands playing - Barefoot Truth in the Bandshell, and Mates of State, as mentioned before. 

"This year they have two fabulous acts to choose from," DeRosa said, adding that the bands will start before the fireworks and play at least a few songs into the fireworks. "It's going to be very dynamic."

When we at Merry Picnic heard that Mates of State were playing during the fireworks, we couldn't think of a better fit because of their high-energy synth-infused, fireworks-perfect music. DeRosa said that he's wanted Mates of State to play the festival for a few years, but it never worked out because of scheduling conflicts until now. He said the Daffodil Festival is "a perfect in-state festival for them" because they live in state and can bring their kids. 

Here's the lineup for each day: 

Don't forget one of the other best parts of the festival (as the above poster mentions) - there's free parking, free shuttle to the festival, and free admission!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Guru (Daffodil Festival)

For the second time in as many weeks we'll be seeing eclectic CT rockers The Guru at a local festival.  Coming off a fantastic performance last weekend at Quinnipiac's Festapalooza, the boys bring their high octane genre-bucking rock to Meriden's Daffodil Festival.  Owing as much to Captain Beefheart as they do to Isaac Brock, their debut LP Native Sun is equal parts carnival, psychedelia, fevered guitar work, shouting, and exuberant fun that's nearly irresistible.  The frenetic energy of their live performance is unmatched, leaving me wondering if an unsuspecting Daffodil Festival crowd will be ready for them.  Ready or not, The Guru plays the Jeff Crooms Welcome Stage at 5:15 Saturday, and should be quite the experience for the uninitiated.  Here's a clip of the band at a recent performance at The Space to hold you over until then.  See you Saturday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Daffodil Festival - This Weekend!

Daffodils at Hubbard Park last month, which sadly won't be in bloom because it was warm so early.
The daffodils are no longer in bloom at Hubbard Park because of the unseasonably warm weather last month, but their spirit will live on.  The Daffodil Festival (one of my favorite parts of being a Meriden native!) is happening this weekend - Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29 at Hubbard Park in Meriden. Food, music, a craft fair, games, and rides - and free admission? Even without daffodils (which on most years are in bloom in the hundreds of thousands this time of year at the park), how could you ask for more?

Gates, food tent, arts & crafts, and children's rides start at 10 a.m., and music starts at 11 a.m. each day. On Saturday, the annual Daffodil Festival parade starts at 11:30 a.m., and there will be fireworks at 8:30 p.m. Free parking (park at one of the designated spots and take the shuttle bus in), and again, free admission.

That fact that admission is free is one of the best things about this festival. A lot of area fairs charge a lot for admission and parking, and even though I understand the costs of exhibits and music, I usually only want to go to fairs for the delicious fair food, and it all adds up. At the Daffodil Festival, I get all that yummy fair food right in my hometown without having to pay an upfront admission - and without having to pay for parking. And by "fair food," I'm talking about fried oreos, fried dough, waffles, corn dogs, steamed cheeseburgers, ribbon fries, and some more cultural foods by local churches like pierogies and kielbasa and pernil and arroz con gandules, and I'm getting hungry just typing about it.

And with the free admission, you get free live music. We've seen lots of local and bigger acts, and this year might be one of the best in terms of music. Merry Picnic have more previews about some of the bands we're looking forward to this week (The Guru, M.T. Bearington, Mates of State), but for now, I'll just say that I'm most excited to see Mates of State playing during the fireworks. I can't think of a more perfect combination with their high-energy, synth-and-drum-driven music.

Here's a link to the Daffodil Festival website for more information:

And here's an interactive Google map of all the 2012 Daffodil Festival that I found on the Record-Journal website:,-72.832425&spn=0.003212,0.006641&z=17&source=embed

Monday, April 23, 2012

Record Store Day 2012 Round-Up

As Garrett pointed out this morning, we Success Kid'd RSD12.
As promised in the last post, here's a round-up of our Record Store Day 2012 experience. We got most of what we wanted - only missing one thing total - and we got more than we expected in free swag from Redscroll.

My dining room table was covered in cool stuff we bought plus free swag.
Friday night going into Saturday morning was a whirlwind of emotion and Record Store Day fun. We left Festapalooza at Quinnipiac and drove down the street to Replay Records in Hamden. The line was already wrapping around their tiny parking lot, and we were hoping to be in the first 50 to get a bag. We were in the first 50 and got some yellow tote bags with the Replay Records logo on it, though nothing else inside other than a booklet advertising mail-order record supplies. At the stroke of midnight, we made our way in and packed the aisles. It was a little confusing finding the Record Store Day releases because they were all laid out on top of the other records in the store, but it worked out, and we were in and out of there in less than a half hour or so. Garrett picked up a copy of the Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends - color-swirl double LP and found side 2 signed by Wayne Coyne!  Garrett tweeted about this wonderful discovery, and Wayne Coyne himself retweeted us! 
^That's our tweet!
Saturday morning, it was a little difficult for me to wake up, but we got to Redscroll Records in Wallingford around 8:30 a.m. - a half hour before they opened. The line was already through most of the parking lot, and it just got longer as we stood there. Even though we were way farther back in line than we were the night before at Replay Records, Redscroll had more than enough bags to give away - and all the bags were full of wonderful free stuff. On top of that, they had a ton of Record Store Day releases, so we got most of what we wanted. Thank you for making all our Record Store Day dreams come true, Redscroll Records. It was worth the hour and a half wait outside your store. And back to Replay Records - thank you for opening your store at midnight, giving us an extra chance at getting the releases we wanted, and happening to get one of the signed copies of The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. You also helped make all our Record Store Day dreams come true.

Here's a list of the stuff we bought, plus some of the swag we got:

RSD Releases:
Preteen Zenith - Rubble Guts & BB Eye - color-swirl LP
Starfucker - Heaven's Youth (Reptilian Demos) - white LP
Futurebirds - Seney-Stovall - live 12' EP
Beach House - Lazuli - marble blue 7"
The Flaming Lips/Mastodon - A Spoonful Weighs A Ton - pink 7"
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends - color-swirl double LP, side 2 SIGNED by Wayne Coyne!

Free Swag:
Samplers from Sub Pop and Safety Meeting Records
Jerkagram CDs
All We Have Is Now, Vol 1 (photographs by Michelle Martin Coyne documenting The Flaming Lips)
Lots of stickers, magnets, and a RSD fan.

Other Stuff We bought:
The Louvin Brothers - Satan Is Real (Light in the Attic reissue, to be featured in an upcoming Vintage Vinyl)
Silly Used Records (including some still wrapped, never opened):
Knee Deep in the Hoopla, Back in the HIgh Life, We Are The World, Smothers Brothers, Liberace, 1812 Overture, Britney Spears "Baby One More Time" single with remixes, and my favorite - Hall & Oates, Rock & Soul Part I - still wrapped, and still containing a free 1984 calendar!

That is one sweet 1984 Hall & Oates calendar from a still-wrapped used record.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Record Store Day 2012 - Starting tonight!

This Record Store Day is already shaping up to be better than all the other Record Store Days we’ve ever celebrated. Record Store Day 2012 is tomorrow – April 21 – and as traditional holds for this very special holiday, record stores across the country will be selling special releases, doing special things, and some will even be hosting some great live music.

I posted the above Gogol Bordello video for Record Store Day 2010 on my old blog, and this song still gets in my head every year around this time.

Here in south central Connecticut, we’ve been going to Redscroll Records in Wallingford. For the past few years, they’ve given a storewide discount, and this year, everything is 15% off, including turntables. Store is open for special hours – 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. We’ll be there shortly before 9, and the last few years, there’s been a line. Here’s their event website:

Tonight, we’re headed to Replay Records in Hamden, which is opening at midnight for record store – until 1 a.m. Then regular store hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here’s the website with more information:

Here’s the list of Record Store Day releases if you haven’t checked it yet. Be excited. And get ready for a round-up with lots of pictures of us smiling with lots of shiny new records.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preteen Zenith - Breathe (Record Store Day '012)

Saturday rapidly approaches, and with it comes the best invented holiday since Kwanzaa - Record Store Day!  Featuring limited releases from everyone from The Flaming Lips to Michael Buble, this is a can't miss event for music lovers, not to mention the raffles, in-store shows, and goody bags of free swag .  We'll have a full post tomorrow detailing the events and stores we're most excited to attend, but for now here's a preview of one of our most anticipated releases.

A 2000 LP limited-run marks the debut for Preteen Zenith, the new outfit from former-Tripping Daisy and current Polyphonic Spree frontman Tim DeLaughter.  I'm not sure what has me more convinced, my trust in Mr. DeLaughter's involvement or the 180 gram custom color swirl vinyl, but if the released tracks are any indication, it will be an impressive debut.  Check out "Breathe" which blends elements of the Spree at their most ambient and Tripping Daisy at their most lo-fi to a satisfying end, and come back tomorrow for more Record Store Day coverage.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Festapalooza at Quinnipiac - This Friday - 4/20!

Quinnipiac’s hosting its first music festival this Friday, April 20, and 98.1 WQAQ - the school radio station who’s sponsoring the event - has put together an epic inaugural lineup: Titus Andronicus, Bomb The Music Industry!, The Front Bottoms, The Guru, Great Caesar, and The Midnighters.

This night of high-energy indie rock and punk is happening in the Burt Kahn Court (the gym inside the Mount Carmel campus rec center), and it’s free for students, $5 for everyone else. According to a comment on the Facebook event page, doors are at 5:30 and the first band goes on at 6:15.

The fact that this festival is free for students, including grad students, is one of the pros of going to a law school attached to an undergrad campus - almost making up for the obvious cons of limited parking and unlikelihood of class cancellation when it snows. $5 for everyone else is a total steal.

Titus Andronicus puts on a great show as demonstrated in the above video from last year’s BOMB Fest. (Not taken by us, but we are there in that crowd!) I haven’t gotten into Bomb The Music Industry!, but in high school, I was really into ska and loved the Arrogant Sons of Bitches, who broke up, but the lead singer and some other members joined BtMI!. ASOB is reuniting in May and playing shows here in CT and Brooklyn. It might be a stretch, but here’s hoping we get an ASOB song for 2004 Freesia.

The Front Bottoms recently opened for the Say Anything/Kevin Devine show in Hartford this month. The Guru is a great local band we’ve seen at other local festivals, including the upcoming Daffodil Festival in Meriden.

Here’s the facebook event page with more info:

And here’s the site where you can buy tickets. (If you’re a student, make sure to go to the WQAQ office in SC203 to pick up your free ticket!)


4/19/12 Update: Set times are up on the Facebook page (and posted below)! Plus, from scrolling through Twitter, both Griff's Chicken Shack and Peachy Keen have confirmed that they're some of the local vendors that will be at the event. 

Titus Andronicus - 10:10 p.m. 
Bomb The Music Industry! - 9:10 p.m. 
The Front Bottoms - 8:10 p.m. 
The Guru - 7:25 p.m. 
Great Caesar - 6:45 p.m. 
The Midnighters - 6:15 p.m. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Screamin' Jay Hawkins - Constipation Blues

The spoken intro is somewhat of a rarity on studio recordings.  Largely relegated to live performances, or recreating those performances in the studio setting, the intro can work a crowd up, building excitement for a song they’ve been waiting for and know/hope is coming.  It can also place a crowd in the right mindset, creating a natural break in a set, readying the audience for a down-tempo tune.  Screamin’ Jay Hawkins knew the value of such a setup, even outside of his live act.

Screamin’ Jay provides a laundry list of harsh realities and adversities that can be addressed in song.  Heartbreak.  Loneliness.  Being broke.  All tried and true topics for a blues tune.  But each of those troubles pale in comparison to this, a song about REAL pain.  Give a listen to the tragicomic tale set forth in “Constipation Blues”, and let it go! Let it go…

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Weather Girls - It's Raining Men

I've been using the song "It's Raining Men" as a punchline for years... but maybe that's because I hadn't heard the rest of the joke.  Finally, stumbling upon to the music video earlier today has opened my eyes to an under-appreciated piece of disco camp that has far greater appeal than it's archetypical gay/girl power following.  Not to mention that it's beyond hilarious.

The video features the aptly named Weather Girls alternating between belting out the chorus and giving hungry eyes to a veritable hoard of gentlemen callers.  The lyrical genius shines brilliantly at moments such as "I'm gonna go outside and get/Absolutely soaking wet".  Tucked in among it all are some extraordinarily GIF-worthy moments (see the video at 0:25, 1:13, 1:21, and 3:24 to get an idea).  The video contains more hilarity in 5 minutes than most major comedies and when all is said and done, you're asking yourself "Why isn't this used as a Rick Roll?"  I've got no answer for that, but I do have the timeless classic, video and all, embedded below.  Hope it makes your day as hysterical as mine was, enjoy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dinosaur Feathers - Fantasy Memorial

Sometimes, all it takes is a band's name to convince me, and the music inevitably follows.  Beach Fossils, Fartbarf, The Gromble, and more are all groups I discovered through their winsome names, and they've all been outstanding acts.  One month from tonight (4/13), the inventively-titled Dinosaur Feathers play The Outer Space in Hamden.  Sonically akin to Vampire Weekend covering Fleet Foxes, Dinosaur Feathers' debut Fantasy Memorial places the listener in a tropical netherworld somewhere between the Mediterrean and the Carribbean.  It's the sort of warm weather music that buoys the spirit, drenched with an infectious happiness that is as enjoyable the hundreth time as it was the first.  We couldn't be more excited for the show, happening just days after their sophomore LP Whistle Tips drops, which will aso feature Phillie-based art-rockers Grandchildren and local favorites EULA.  We'll be writing more as it aproaches, but until then here's the first two tracks off Fantasy Memorial "I Ni Sogoma" and "Vendele Vida".

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Look Back @ Pinky and the Brain

Some may question an Animaniacs’ spinoff like Pinky and the Brain as a legit nostalgia piece. Truly a product of the 90s, the show shares as much in common with classic Warner Bros cartoons as it does its Saturday morning contemporaries. The show combines vintage slapstick and cartoon violence with a manic pace and a veritable treasure chest of pop culture references. No notable performer, politcian, or fictional character from the last century is off limits, with writing that digs MUCH deeper than any typical “childrens” program. Nowhere is the trademark wit of 90s cartoons better on display than in the series’ recurring “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?” repartee. Here’s all 85 of Pinky’s responses, embedded below, and use the comments to tell us your favorite (narf).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Merry Picnic Frozen Bananas

I have no idea why I never tried to make my own frozen bananas before. Ask Garrett - I couldn’t wait for fair season to come around just so I could get my Arrested Development on at a chocolate banana stand – and I couldn’t stop talking about it, months before any fairs would be happening in our area. This week I realized I could make them myself, and they’re easier to make than I thought. I looked up a bunch of recipes online then settled on my own version – using just a microwave because I’m too scared/lazy to attempt to use a double boiler. With five bananas (halved), cake pop sticks, a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, shredded coconut, peanuts, and peanut butter, we ended up with three regular frozen banana halves dipped in chocolate, four banana halves dipped in chocolate and covered in shredded coconut, and four frozen banana halves with a layer of peanut butter, covered in chocolate, and topped off with chopped peanuts. All were AMAZING. The bananas are like ice cream, and they’re just perfect with the chocolate shell and other toppings. Here’s the recipe: 

Merry Picnic Frozen Bananas

What you’ll need:

5 bananas, halved
10 cake pop sticks, or popsicle sticks
12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-2 tbsp. butter
Parchment or wax paper
Optional toppings: Peanut butter, chopped peanuts, coconut flakes, sprinkles

What you’ll have to do:

1.     Cut the bananas in half and insert a cake pop stick or popsicle stick into the flat side of each half. Place onto parchment paper-lined plate or container. Freeze for at least an hour.
2.     (If you’re going to use a peanut butter layer, follow this step. If not, skip to Step 3.) Take out frozen bananas you want to cover in peanut butter. Use a butter knife to spread the peanut butter on. Place on parchment paper and put back in freezer to freeze the peanut butter.
3.     Pour the entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Add butter. On medium-high heat (I used 70% power), microwave for a minute, then stir. Continue microwaving in 15 to 30-second intervals on 70% power until the chocolate is melted.
4.     If you’re using toppings other than chocolate, have them ready on a plate to roll your chocolate-dipped banana in.
5.     Take bananas (regular, or covered in peanut butter) out of the freezer. Using a butter knife, scoop some chocolate out of the bowl and cover each banana half. You can also use the knife to spread the chocolate evenly on the banana. If you’re using toppings, spread the chocolate quickly because the chocolate will harden on the banana before you can get the shredded coconut or peanuts to stick. If using toppings, roll the chocolate-covered banana into the topping. (We rolled a few in shredded coconut, and we rolled the ones with peanut butter in chopped/crushed peanuts.)
6.     Place your finished banana on parchment paper and put back in freezer until the chocolate hardens. If you’re going to save them for a while, store in an airtight container.
7.     Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Chambers Brothers - Time Has Come Today

I remember ten years ago when this song underwent a renaissance of sorts.  Appearing on everything from CSI to car commercials, the track was fairly ubiquitous for a period in the early 2000s.  This being a trend I feel should start again, take a trip back to '68 with The Chambers Brothers' sprawling classic "Time Has Come Today".  Your soul just might get psychedelicized.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Carpenters - Close To You (Happy Valentine's Day)

I've been thinking about Karen Carpenter a lot lately (gone 29 years last week) and (over)spinning my thrift store copy of The Carpenters' Close To You LP.  The title track is one of the all-time great love songs and a perfect tune to close out Valentine's Day with.  Hope it was a good one for you too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dum Dum Girls & Widowspeak @ The Space (TONIGHT)

This year's incarnation of B.O.M.B. Fest was the best festival I've seen in some time, on paper.  The execution left much to be desired, replete with a venue change (a good thing), borderline nonsensical overlapping of bands (a BAD thing), and most damning, several booked acts dropping out prior to the festival.  Fans who looked forward to seeing George Clinton, Quintron, and more were sorely disappointed to find a sizable chunk of the lineup had to cancel, leaving ticket-holders more or less helpless as they were Lando (as opposed to Vader) in this situation.

Lately, however, Manic Productions has been booking acts that had to otherwise cancel their appearances.  Quintron & Miss Pussycat (who will be featured in our next Vintage Vinyl post) return to Cafe Nine May 1st, righting a major wrong.  Tonight though, indie girl-group Dum Dum Girls finally play Connecticut, headlining at The Space in Hamden with openers Widowspeak and Punks on Mars.

Having had to cancel their tour last year due to a death in the family, tonight is their first chance to return to the Nutmeg State.  That their mini-tour takes them through Hamden is only an added bonus, as the intimate venue will be a somewhat rare occurrence for Dum Dum Girls, who have been routinely filling larger rooms with fans of their 60s/punk/girl-rock ethos.  Lo-fi chillout trio Widowspeak is not to be missed either.  Their self-titled debut shines, featuring ethereal vocals and catchy guitar hooks, making for a perfect sonic pairing.  Check out "Nightcrawlers" from Widowspeak and "Bedroom Eyes" off Only in Dreams, Dum Dum Girls' latest LP, both embedded below.  Tickets are still available ($15) and be sure to get there early for happy hour at The Outer Space, nothing beats warming up for a show with some $2 drafts.  See you there!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Traffic - The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

Long before he was taken to ‘higher love’, Steve Winwood was doing outstanding vocal work with The Spencer Davis Group and fronting the seminal 70s rock act, Traffic. Nowhere is that early creative success better demonstrated than on Traffic's 1971 album, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys. The title track is a nearly 12 minute sprawling masterpiece of 70s rock, featuring intertwining piano and synthesizer parts as well as extended saxophone and keyboard solos. While “Dear Mister Fantasy” might be a crowd favorite, “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” is, for me at least, Traffic’s signature track.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Buckethead - Theme from Cannibal Holocaust

In order to indulge my affinity for live rarities, here's an alternate version of the recently featured theme from Cannibal Holocaust.  Performed by guitar virtuoso Buckethead, his plugged in take on the original's chillout blend of synth and acoustic guitar is more emotive and (thanks to his signature mask) almost as unsettling.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Justice - Brianvision

I've been on a steady diet of Justice as of late.  In a sonic blend that melds Air with Kavinsky, the French electro-rockers have been on a constant loop since I picked up their sophomore album Audio, Video, Disco.  Every track is a must-hear, but my own pick would be the instrumental guitar feast that is "Brianvision".  Featuring a pounding bass line and Brian May-esque guitars that would be right at home on any classic Queen album, the track begs to be listened again and again, not to mention having one of the best song titles I've heard in recent memory.  Check out "Brianvision" embedded below.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rush - 2112 (Happy Rush Day! 2/1/12)

Hello internet!  Just found out that it's Rush Day and couldn't resist honoring Canada's greatest non-bacon export.  Take a minute (or 20) to tip your hat to Messrs. Lifeson, Peart, and Lee and enjoy the entire title track from their classic album 2112.  Rock.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hospitality - The Right Profession

The self-titled debut of indie-rock trio Hospitality dropped today.  An eclectic collection of songs ranging from twee-pop bliss to garage-y guitar rockers, the tracks will be put on display at BAR New Haven come March 7th as part of Manic Productions' free Wednesday concert series.  Until then, here's the all-too-brief cut, "The Right Profession", and look forward to more as the show approaches.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Riz Ortolani - Theme from Cannibal Holocaust

The archetypical horror film score is one that sets out to scare, heightening the tension felt by those on-screen as well as in the theatre. John Carpenter’s piano-centric score for Halloween comes to mind, with the quirky 5/4 time signature of the main motif and the incidental music contributing to a slow sense of dread that pays off in a big way at the film’s climax. Other soundtracks, such as Goblin’s work on Dario Argento’s Suspiria (featured here:, beat you over the head to a degree, reflecting the action and increasing madness of the film.

Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero Deodato’s classic of mondo cinema, has a score that bucks the trend. Riz Ortolani (recently featured on the Drive soundtrack), contributes music that instills neither dread nor outright terror, but disquiet instead. The film itself is horrific. Featuring realistic amputations, outstanding gore and make-up direction, and actual animal deaths (a major point of contention for the film’s detractors), the horror is laid out right on the screen. The disquiet comes from the music, featuring heavy-handed synth motifs when things are about to get particularly gruesome. Juxtaposed against that, however, is the main theme, a blend of synthesizers and acoustic guitars seemingly out of place in such a film.

We are introduced to the theme during the film’s opening credits. Consisting of aerial shots of the Amazon River, the scene is one of tranquil greenery, nothing indicative of the “Holocaust” to come. The music seems more befitting a David Attenborough documentary than a noted gore-fest. That’s where the disquiet comes in.

The theme is used, to great effect, several times throughout Cannibal Holocaust. A scene where a group of natives are burned alive by documentarians builds to an intense sonic peak, which then abruptly switches to the main theme. The screams of a tribe being immolated are nearly drowned out by the unsettling beauty of the soundtrack. As the fires choke out signs of life, a cameraman cries with unfettered glee, “It’s BEAUTIFUL” as dozens of so-called “savages” are burned for this so-called documentary. In this moment you forget you’re watching a film, and for a split second, you realize the scene truly is beautiful. The film questions, somewhat heavy handedly, “who the real cannibals are”, but it’s moments like these that make the viewer the savage, at best a morally suspect observer to the slaughter if not outright sharing the jubilance of the main characters.

The film’s notoriety has only grown with time, as has its fan base.  The staged “deaths” of the four leads were deemed to be so life-like that director Deodato was brought to Italian court with his actors to prove that they were not actually murdered for the film.  Having lurked in the shadows for decades, one had to turn to Google Video or find a particularly well-stocked video store to acquire a copy of the film. Recent years have seen high quality DVD and CD releases for the movie and its soundtrack, making it easier than ever to become a Cannibal Holocaust devotee. In any case, give Ortolani’s classic theme a listen (we’ll feature more of Riz’s work in the near future) and for the less squeamish among us, give the flick a try too. I can assure it will stick with you, for better or for worse.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel - Little Birds

And now, my four-word review of last night's Jeff Mangum show.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel - Engine

The night is upon us! Mr. Mangum plays the Shubert in a few short hours.  We'll be hearing this one during the encore (we hope), so get ready and give "Engine" a listen now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel - Oh Sister

Our excitement for Jeff Mangum’s upcoming tour has reached a fever pitch as of late. The formerly reclusive Neutral Milk Hotel frontman opens his 2012 schedule with a stop at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre. Like kids on Christmas, we’ve been wearing out our copy of their seminal record In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Other standouts, such as Mangum’s Live at Jittery Joe’s LP have gotten us through the last few weeks, but it’s the newly collected EP Ferris Wheel on Fire that has been the biggest and most welcome surprise. The sole complaint about Jeff Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel would be a comparable lack of material when looking at other beloved acts, being that there are only two full-length NMH albums. Ferris Wheel on Fire immensely adds to their fairly short discography, collecting 8 excellent rarities and b-sides, all of which would feel right at home on Aeroplane. The EP’s leadoff track, “Oh Sister” features the impassioned vocals and allegorical lyrics that have enamored listeners over the years, and is the perfect compliment for an album that so many know so well. We’ll continue our Mangum coverage over the next couple days, so give “Oh Sister” a listen and don’t miss the show tomorrow night (1/18).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Real Estate - Wonder Years

You know when there's a song that grabs you?  It might not be the album's big hit; it might not be everyone's favorite track, but its YOUR favorite track.  "Wonder Years" off Real Estate's newest LP, Days, is one such song.  Ringing guitar gets paired with melancholic lyrics, hearkening back to hot, hazy afternoons and days that blend into each other, with nothing but droning cicadas and fuzzy FM radio breaking the stillness.  That description could apply to much of Real Estate's work, but more than any other track, "Wonder Years" fits that bill, drawing on more than just fond summer memories, but not so fond ones as well.  Nostalgia becomes wistfullness becomes lament on this tune, a requiem for summers long since past and the people and places that reside in those memories.

 But I'm not yours and you're not mine
No, I'm not okay but I guess I'm doing fine

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dexter's Dodge Commercial

It's a new year at Merry Picnic, so let's start it off right, with a half-baked post on a viral video! By now you've likely seen Dodge's recent campaign featuring Dexter star Michael C. Hall, but did you notice the famous narrator?  Hall adopts a deep baritone in the ads making him somewhat difficult to spot, but add a clip from the Dexter score and it's a dead ringer, not to mention hilarious.