Sunday, June 21, 2015

Enation / FOH Lounge / Springfield, Mo

Confession: I excitedly bought tickets to the 6/20/15 Jonathan Jackson + Enation show at Front of House (part of downtown Springfield's Outland Complex) to see "Avery from Nashville."

Jackson is the one in the middle. With the fashionable man-scarf.

I now feel like a goon for thinking I would only enjoy the concert because Enation features an actor from a primetime drama I watch while I drink wine and cuddle with my dogs.

I started the evening in a sea of (mostly) women, snapping and tweeting pics before Jackson even played a note. The ceiling shook as the hardcore metal band Whitechapel played upstairs in the Outland Ballroom. Underneath that culture-clash freight train, a recorded intro played as Jackson said hello and looked around at the 30-35 people gathered in front of the stage. I felt kind of awkward, because I was right in his line of vision. Then the music started.

I am seriously blown away by this band. Especially Jackson's voice. He can rock out, belt, give a piercing scream, and smoothly offer up a falsetto. All in the same song.

Crappy iPhone concert pic #1

My immediate impression of  Enation: Mayfield Four, if Mayfield Four were from Nashville instead of Washington state. Then, Jackson mentioned he is from Washington. I will now argue my comparison is legit, and not a product of my tendency to sneak a Myles Kennedy reference into any conversation.

This review of a recent Enation show in Nashville compares the band's sound to U2, Muse, Foo Fighters, and Kings of Leon. I agree with all of these--except I don't really hear Foo Fighters. I would throw in Thirty Seconds to Mars as well.

The Springfield set mostly included songs from Enation's latest album, Radio Cinematic. (Which I bought and asked Jackson to sign, because I am Queen Dork) Jackson plays guitar and sings, while his brother Richard Lee Jackson handles drums. Daniel Sweatt carries the burden of being a bass player in a 3-piece band very well, filling out the sound while keeping a groove going.

Several REM covers, as well as a "journey" through some of the bands' influences--covering U2, Radiohead, and Pearl Jam--broke up the original tunes.

"Cinematic" closed the evening. This song is so good. Very sexy. Love it.

I was not expecting Enation to rock as hard as they did. I was definitely not expecting to become a fan, as synthy, indie rock/pop isn't really my thing. But there's just enough early 2000's alternative in the music to keep me interested.

The trio totally launched into some super-energetic jams throughout the evening. I was never bored. Jackson is a big reason for this. He attacks each song with so much passion. Feeling what he's singing. I couldn't look away. Enation plays like they have something to prove.

Crappy iPhone concert pic #2

They likely do. Mike and I were standing in front of the venue when the guys got out of their van, and a girl yelled,"Hey, Avery!" According to Enation's bio, Jackson started playing music with his band mates 15 years ago...long before he was playing Juliette Barnes' love interest. Radio Cinematic is Enation's fourth album. Their first was released in 2004. This band is obviously something these guys take very seriously, not just a side project Jackson formed because he's on a music-centric TV show.

If you're curious about Enation's recorded music, you can preview Radio Cinematic here. The album is more piano driven than the guitar rock displayed in their live show. The songs still sound strong. The lyrics explore themes of love (good, bad, desperation) and being young. "A Far Away Reality" is beautifully written, thought provoking song.

Standout tracks for me: "Cinematic," the rock-flavored "Kicked in the Head," "Things You've Never Seen," and "I See God in You." I also really dig the 80's pop-tinged "Even the Flames Are Love."

I leave you with the picture Mike took of Jonathan and I. Jackson managed this lovely smile, even though he seemed quite shy as I told him how much I dig his music and his singing.

Way to make things weird, Carrie.
The whole world is lit, we're cinematic.
Mrs. W.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Album Review: Cauterize / Tremonti

To objectively review Tremonti's Cauterize outside of the influence of the Mark Tremonti/Alter Bridge/Creed superfan bubble I live in is a task I'm not really equipped for, but I'll give it a go.

A little history lesson first, for those of you who don't identify as "Tremonsters:" Mark Tremonti was the lead guitarist for Creed. (you remember Creed, right? Of course you do)

How could you forget?

Mark and the non-Stapp members of Creed went on to form Alter Bridge with Myles Kennedy. In his own band, Tremonti is joined by Eric Friedman, (guitar, backing vocals) Garrett Whitlock, (drums) and Wolfgang Van Halen (bass, backing vocals).

Tremonti released All I Was in 2012. All I Was is full of memorable riffs, catchy melodies, and solid songs. It offered a peek at the heavier, metal music Mark was apparently longing to make.

But Cauterize is a much more complex and dynamic collection.
I've had Cauterize in my car and on my iPod for a week now, and I am falling more and more in love with it each time I listen. Michael "Elvis" Baskette (AB's Fortress, Slash's latest...countless others) did an excellent job producing and mixing this beast. These guys have made an album that appeals to those who need to keep it metal--fast and loud and heavy without scaring away fans of hooks and melodies and ear candy.

The first track on Cauterize, "Radical Change," begins with a full-on guitar assault. Just take a Tylenol--you're going to have an ache from banging your head. It's very obvious from the beginning of Cauterize, Mark Tremonti has definitely grown as a singer. In both confidence and skill. He's taking more chances as a frontman. Another step up from All I Was: Van Halen and Friedman add depth to the songs with their backing vocals. Garrett Whitlock's drumming absolutely kills on Cauterize. He is getting some attention on the festival circuit, and will definitely be a musician to watch.

Cauterize continues with the ominous "Flying Monkeys," the rocking-yet-catchy title track, and then brings that speed metal punch back with the brutal "Arm Yourself." The first single from Cauterize, "Another Heart" seems like a better-than-average radio rock song...until the bridge. That bridge is completely ridiculous and awesome. Behold:

With the exception of "Tie The Noose," which displays a harder, Metallica-equse, mood, there is only one way to describe the last half of Cauterize. It's not even a real word, (because "Metallica-esque" totally is) but it's all I have: Alter Bridge-y. If Myles Kennedy was singing "Fall Again," "Sympathy," or "Providence," they'd fit in just fine on an Alter Bridge album.

I definitely don't think this is a bad thing. If you don't have softer stuff in the mix, the brutal songs lose their punch.

Hopefully, Cauterize will help Tremonti gain some fans beyond the diehards who already love him. This band is legit. It's not a thrown-together side project. I hope people listen, without preconceived notions about what "that guy from Creed" might sound like.

If you dig Cauterize, there are ten more songs, recorded during the same sessions, set to be released soon on another full-length Tremonti album called Dust.

Want to listen to Cauterize?
Preview the album on Amazon.

Mrs. W.