Monday, October 31, 2011

Interview With Kevin Sierzega from P.T.'s Revenge. Formerly of Teen Idols/Bullets To Broadway

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Kevin. I understand you're currently working on the first P.T.'s Revenge album in over 10 years! How did you and the band come to get back together after so many years apart?

Kevin Sierzega:
It started with the idea of a reunion show and has snowballed into recording sessions. I've always had a feeling we'd play out again, but tracking songs has been an unexpected joy. Ultimately I think the timing in our lives and desire to play together again has been the spark. We also needed a good push and Joe Mizzi was talking Whoa! Records showcase. Brilliant! He's been helping us since day one.

CM: For those who don't know who P.T.'s Revenge is, can you give us a little history on the bands original time around?

We played local shows and put out cassette tapes and full lengths and splits and it was amazing. We had the best shitty punk bank in High School. Matt, Jeff and myself had a fun dynamic that translated to our live shows.
I think the most Important thing the three of us ever did was ask Johnny and Dave to join the band. Johnny is a talent powerhouse and I'd stack his chops up against any player in the game, past or present. Him and Matt get along extremely well and also share a creative bond. Those two are the obvious musical talents of the group. Dave no longer plays with PT's, but was an important part of the puzzle. He actually legitimized us a band offering a punk-rock integrity of sorts. Dave is older than the rest of us and knew a different crowd of people in the scene. He had connections. He also drew influences from bands like lifetime and Good Riddance which gave us a harder edge on many songs. All in all Dave gave us some weird kind of street cred that that band lacks without him. Matt, Jeff, Johnny, Dave and myself are on the "Save the Drama" recording from Sonic and that is the line up I think of when I think of PT's.

CM: How has "Save The Drama", the bands latest release, been accepted? This album, although brand new to the public, was actually recorded 10 years ago, right?

Totally recorded a long time ago. I'm not quite sure how people like the record so far. To be honest, that doesn't matter much to me. It's an album I'm proud to be a part of and I hope people enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed being a part of creating it. Yes the music is 10 years old, but that's the music I love and people who love pop punk from 10 years ago will probably enjoy this record too.

CM: After P.T.'s breakup you were the lead singer in Teen Idols for their 4th and final studio album "Nothing To Prove" and tour. What was it like being a part of the band?

Being a part of Teen Idols was great. (PT's was still together at that point). They were a machine. I met them, practiced with them for two weeks and then went on my first tour ever: Less Than Jake, Anti-flag, New Found Glory. Holy Shit! It was intense. I believe I'd just turned 20 years old before the tour started. There were a lot of Teen Idols fans wondering who the hell I was, but it didn't bother me. Most fans were accepting. Recording "Nothing To Prove" was comfortable because I'd already worked with Mass on the PT's full length. He's the best of the best. I'd still rather listen to Pucker Up or the Self-Titled record, but I'm honored to be a part of Teen Idols history. Vinnie from LTJ put out "Nothing to Prove" on his label Fueled by Ramen and we toured briefly to support it before going our separate ways.

                                                                     Kevin with Teen Idols
CM: What caused the breakup of Teen Idols?

Hmm. I'll say that Phillip quit. He was the only original member of the band so the rest of us felt it would have been inappropriate to continue as "Teen Idols". That being said, Phillip has put together a new Teen Idols line-up including Keith on vocals that is currently playing out. I can only speak for myself, but I wish nothing but the best for Phillip and the Teen Idols. Go see them play and buy their records!

CM: After Teen Idols split, you Heather and Matt formed the band Bullets To Broadway. The band released the now legendary EP "Drink Positive", toured and then just dropped out of sight. There was a rumor going around that you and the band were getting back together a couple years ago. But nothing flourished. What happened? And will there ever be another BTB release?

Ohh long lost love. That band was incredible. I look back at those years as the best I've had. Gui and Heather and Geis and Matt...totally! In retrospect I would have drank less and toned down the drug use to help Matt with the important aspects of keeping a band going. He was the glue, the Papa Bear. I continue to have great relationships with those fools. I wouldn't rule out ever recording new Bullets to Broadway tunes, but logistically, shows and touring are a stretch for me.

                                                                     Bullets To Broadway
CM: Between the demise of BTB and the reformation of P.T.'s Revenge, what were you up to? Did you record any music in between bands?

I recorded an EP and played a few shows with a band called American Etiquette. ex- Mustard Plug and Bang Bang. We played the "FEST" in Gainesville, FL a few years back, but that's really the extent of it. You can probably find some songs online somewhere.

CM: Now that P.T's is back in full force, when can we expect the new album to be released? And will you guy's be touring behind it?

We've recorded 4 tunes that should be out by the time we play the show in December. I'd check the Whoa! Records site for updates. Mizzi is good at keeping folks up to date. If you like "Save the Drama", you'll like the new recording. Touring is unlikely unless one of us hits the lottery and shares the winnings with everyone else in the band.

CM: Is there any websites that you would like to plug where we can get up to date info on the new album, tour dates and merch?

I would check Whoa! Records for updates on any and all things PT's Revenge. Also, you can stream and purchase some of our tunes on some websites that I can't remember.(plus I don't know how to do a link thingy right here). Definitely check out the other Whoa! bands. Make sure to check out and support Johnny K's band "Bat on Fire". Check out and support Matt's band "Arm Your Enemy". Matt recorded guitar tracks on the Common Rider full length "This is Unity Music" featuring Jesse Michaels on vocals. Also check out and support Teen Idols, now based out of Chicago. Check out and support Geis, Gui and Heather and their musical projects out of Gainesville. (Welcome to the world baby Inza. The most punk rock baby of all time. Congrats you two!).

                                                           Kevin with Matt and Heather BTB days
CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass, Kevin. I reviewed the latest P.T.'s album for CM and loved it. I'm really happy to hear you're back again. I hope to see you and the band in Chicago in the near future. All the best to you and the band in the new year! Thanks again man!

Chris, Detroit is only a 4 and a half hour drive...I'll see you at the PT's show

I would like to thank Chris Doerr for joining PT's and taking over guitar and vocal responsibilities. Chris is a longtime friend of the band, husband to Cannons Doerr:) and father to Thomas Doerr.

Most importantly I want to thank my beautiful wife Jocie for putting up with an old man reliving his glory years. I love you mucho grande baby!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

"My Personal Top 10" - Johnny Perrin from The Love Shots

Editors note: Today at Critical Mass we have a young man who, not only plays in a great band called The Love Shots (who are playing a Halloween show tomorrow night as the Ramones) , but also has amazing taste in music. One of the joys of running this blog besides getting to hear some great bands who I may not have had the chance to otherwise is meeting some great people and picking their brains when it comes to THEIR Top Ten's! Today is no exception. When I hear "I weep for the future" I think of this guy and know it's gonna be alright! Now if only more young people where this open minded. Without further ado, a young man wise beyond his years. Mr. Johnny Perrin.

Being really into music, I knew that at least half of my list would be comprised of me blabbing about records I love, so I figured I'd get it out of the way with 5 of my favorite albums - IN particular order - which is pretty damn hard to do. I feel like one of those d-bags on Chopped, or Iron Chef, scrutinizing everything.

5 Records:

5. They Might Be Giants - They Might Be Giants

I absolutely love this band and would have to say that they've never really come out with anything I didn't like (including the Dunkin' Donuts commercials). Starting with the awesomely poppy train-wreck anthem 'Everything Right Is Wrong Again', and on to some of my all-time favorite writing (From 'Don't Let's Start' - "No one in the world every gets what they want and that is beautiful"). This band rarely leaves my turntable for too long. This debut of theirs, in particular.

4. Jawbreaker - Dear You

I was born in '92, so Blake and co. were on their way out right around the time I turned the ripe old age of 4, but this record is still just as poignant as it was when released in 1995. I remember being in 6th grade with my brother Jeremy still living at home. Him and I took a lot of music-related cues from the eldest brother in the family, Chris, who'd spent some time playing in some pretty cool bands, and went on to play with other cool bands you should check out like The Heavens and Colossal. I would hear him mention band names every-so-often that would leave me at the height of curiosity. Band names like Slapstick, The Rentals, Smoking Popes, and Jawbreaker - he even had a Face To Face tattoo. If he liked it, it had to be cool, right? One day while rifling through Jeremy's room, I found a self-burnt disc with "Dear You" scribbled on it. I popped it in the cd player, and after about 30 seconds, turned it off, and threw the disc back in his room. Couldn't get past Blake's voice. It wasn't until 2 years later after seeing Sanawon cover a song called "Accident Prone" that changed my mind for good.

3. Smoking Popes - Destination Failure


This is the record I listened to nearly everyday from age 12 to 18 - and also the band I've had the privilege to open for a few times and get to know. I still believe it's the perfect Pop-Punk record, and even now, I still love every single track. The production completely kick-ass (RIP Jerry Finn and Phil Bonnet), and Josh's songwriting was at full peak. There's no record that hold's more value to me than this. Perfectly themed and put together.

2. Material Issue - Freak City Soundtrack

One of my Dad's favorite bands. Having said that, my Dad's tastes are practically my own. The strange thing about growing up with parents cool enough to take their kids to local shows and buy them drumkits at early ages, is they played tons of local music - nearly just as much or more than big-league bands like the Beatles or the Who. To me, being that young, "Renee Remains The Same", "Going Through Your Purse", and "She Loves You" all very well could've been the same band. Since I was underage, I never saw Material Issue, but my Dad would be taking off what seemed like every week to see them. Then, around 1996, he stopped going. That was the first time I'd ever heard of someone taking their own life. This is still my favorite Powerpop record, and it really doesn't get much better than this. The drums sound enormous thanks to Mike Chapman (C'mon. The dude did Ballroom Blitz) and Ellison's writing is fantastic. Jim may be gone, but he left behind some amazing music. I'm an eternal fan.

1. The Replacements - Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (PS - If anyone has a copy of this on vinyl, I'll totally hook you up with free Love Shots swag... or money!)

Parents always know best, I suppose. At 13, I pretty much refused to listen to anything that wasn't Ramones-related, or anything suggested to me by people over 30. My Dad gave me a CD to borrow called "Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash." I totally ignored his suggestion for nearly a year until he threatened to take it back. Needless to say, it blew my mind. This record's ferocious.

5 Non-Records:

5. Cooking - The only thing I'd ever entertain the thought of going back to school for. Rib-eyes, anyone?

4. Hank Williams Sr. - 'Nuff said.


3. Really nice people - I don't know how I end up in really cool situations, but I'm eternally grateful. Great friends, band-mates, acquaintances. I haven't even hit 20 and I've experienced some really cool stuff.

2. Working at Rediscover Records

I'm lucky enough to have a real cool boss that lets me hang around the shop filing records and talking to people about music. Stop by anytime!

1. Spending time with family or close friends - As cheesy as it may be, they're the ones that put up with my constant whining. Especially my girlfriend. God bless any woman who can stand around in record shops for a few hours a week without biting anyone's head off.

P.S. Thanks to Chris for being such a cool dude and running this kick-ass blog. And for also letting some kid in a crappy band pester him through Craigslist about a Joey Ramone record. I owe ya

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview With Paul Sanchez

 Editors note: I know that most of the artists featured here are in punk bands with the occasional rock n roller thrown in for good measure. But I'm a music lover. All styles of music get me moving, physically and emotionally. With that said, today's artist is a talented guy and a TRUE survivor.  One of my favorite singer/songwriters in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Paul Sanchez!

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Paul. I know you've been busy lately with the musical, 9 Lives, which you wrote songs for. Can you tell us about the musical and how you came to be involved in it?

Paul Sanchez: 9 Lives is a New York Times best seller written by Dan Baum. my songwriting partner in Los Angeles read the book and thought it would make a great musical. After telling him no a half dozen times I realized it was a wonderful idea. We wrote a song called, Feels Like A Lady, made a demo and sent it to the author, Dan loves music and he dug the songs, he said yes. It took us a year and half of writing. Three months to record Volume One and I have spent the last two months finishing the recording of the 15 songs that will make up Nine Lives Complete which will be released in January.

CM: Will you be taking 9 Lives out on the road to more cities in the coming months? I would love to see it in Chicago. We love you here, Paul.

PS: It is an expensive concert to mount because of the size of the band and multiple singers. If someone wanted to promote a show and spend the money, we would love to bring Nine Lives to Chicago.

CM: Do you feel that 9 Lives is, not only a celebration of music and song from such a wonderful city, but also a healing process for those affected by the floods?

PS: I don't get to watch the audience at shows but I have been told that it is both cathartic and healing. It isn't just aimed at folks affected by the flood, Nine Lives is not a Katrina story. It is the story of community. how it changed in the forty years between the two disasters known as Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina, How that community and the lives of those nine people changed in that time. How when the system has failed you, it is the community coming together to help and your own inner strength that pulls you through.

CM: I know Hurricane Katrina is a touchy subject for you being from New Orleans. And if you don't want to talk about it I would completely understand. But I must ask you, do you feel your music, and songwriting in general, has changed since the flood?

PS: After the flood a friend of mine said to me, "you can be a better man or a worse man, but you can't be the same man." I have changed in many ways, musically, personally, emotionally. I became aware of how important my musical roots in New Orleans. I took lessons in traditional jazz guitar playing so I could explore new directions as a songwriter. I am aware of how brief and precious life is in ways I wasn't before and have written songs at a furious pace putting out six CD's since the storm.  I am trying to be a better man a better husband and a better artist.

CM: You have played and recorded so many different styles of music over the years, and WELL, I might add. From rock n roll, to singer/songwriter acoustic to jazz. Who are some of your personal musical influences?

PS: Frank Sinatra is one of the greatest singers ever. John Lennon as a songwriter, artist and as a man who tried to live in love. Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong. Songwriters, John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman, Roger Manning, Alex McMurray. I know hundreds and hundreds of songs because I just love a good song.

CM: You were an integral part of Cowboy Mouth for a number of years, writing some now classic songs like "My Little Blue One", "Hey Bartender" and "Laughable". Now that you're on your own on a full time basis, do you still enjoy playing stripped down versions of those songs?

PS: I play them solo, always did. All three of the songs you mentioned were recorded on acoustic guitar by me before there ever was a Cowboy Mouth. They came out on the CD'"Jet Black And Jealous" and "Wasted Lives And Blugrass". I also play with a great bunch of folks in Paul Sanchez and The Rolling Road Show and we play some of my older stuff so I still do full band versions as well. I have a new release in November with the band that will include new versions of Light It On Fire, Louisiana Lowdown and Blue and The Stars Remind Me Of You.

CM: I know the split with Cowboy Mouth wasn't on the best of terms when it happened. Have you talked with Fred or JTG since then? And do you think that maybe somewhere down the line there may be a reunion of sorts with you three playing together again?

PS: I didn't have a problem with Fred or Griff, I had a problem with the manager they chose, they wanted him more than me so I left. Since then, Griff and I talk now and again, we may even play together some day but Fred went out of his way to be cruel to my wife and me and we haven't talked in five years. There is no chance of a reunion mainly because I am not that person or player anymore, I can't go back to high school and neither can you, even if it was fun. I am busy with new music, new people and a new life.

CM: Now, not only are you a talented singer, songwriter and guitarist. But now you can add author to that list with the release of your first book "Pieces Of Me" that came out in '09. How did the book come about? And are there any plans to release a second volume of stories?

PS: The book was an accident. Blogs of mine that someone edited and turned into a book. Perhaps another accident will occur.

CM: Your last album "Bridging The Gap" was recorded with Shamarr Allen on trumpet. How did you and Shamarr get together for this amazing album? And will we be seeing more collaborations between you two again in the future?

PS: It was Shamarr's idea. He called me on the phone and said, "Uncle Paul, I just saw Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong on You Tube together. we got to make us a record!" I said great and asked what kind of record he wanted to make. Shamarr said, "we'll do old peoples music like you like, and I'll sing it, and we'll do young people's music like I like and you sing it." I thought it would be a great chance for me to teach Shamarr how we used to make pop records when I was young , and I did. But he taught me just as much about how records are made now. When he taught me the song "Heartless" by Kanye West he made me sing it line by line so he could show me how to sing hip-hop phrasing. It took me a couple of days but then I realized that the phrasing was similar to reggae or ska music in that the beat of the song stays the same but the melody skips and grooves and that is where the song gets it's feel.

With 2011 drawing to a close, and a lot of time and hard work going into 9 Lives this year, what can we expect from Paul Sanchez in 2012?

Paul Sanchez and The Rolling Road Show record called, Reclamation Of The Pie-Eyed Piper comes out in November. In January, Nine Lives: A Musical Story Of New Orleans, all forty songs will be released. I plan on recording an acoustic record in February. Keeping the music flowing.

CM: Is there a website that you would like to plug? Where fans can get up to date info on 9 Lives, new releases and merch?

PS: Nine Lives has a wonderful page on Mystery Street RecordsThreadhead Records and my own site where there are dozens of streaming songs, videos and press dating back to 1983.

CM: I can't thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with Critical Mass, Paul. It truly is a pleasure for me to talk with you. I want to wish you, the cast and crew all the BEST with 9 Lives. And I hope we get you back to Chicago again real soon. Thanks again.

PS: Thanks. Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world and I play there as often as I can. Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about and share my music.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Music Reviews: Kurt Baker - "Rockin' For A Living"

It doesn't take long to hear Kurt Baker's musical influences in his music. A cup of early Elvis Costello, a tablespoon of Nick Lowe mixed in with a dash of The Knack and a sprinkle of Off Broadway, and voila, you have Kurt's amazingly fun new record Rockin' For A Living.

Mr. Baker may be a young man, but his musical tastes are exceptional. This album could have come out in 1981 and been a major hit! But at the same time, it has a state of the art sound that makes it a modern day classic. Even as the days grow shorter and the nights longer and colder, you can put this on the old turntable or CD player and feel the hot sun beating down on you. It's catchy, well written and played. And a blast to rock out to.

Fans will remember Kurt from his previous band, The Leftovers, who played a more pop/punk style of music. But with the bands demise a couple years ago Kurt has found his niche in the music world. Playing sunny post punk/new wave infused music for a new generation. He's got this style of writing and playing down, and he's not gonna let it slip through his fingers.

The album, out on Oglio and on vinyl through Stardumb Records, kicks of with "Just Forget About It", a great tune about a girl who's "on the prowl", and playing head games with her boyfriend. Sure, it's heartbreaking subject matter. But with music so happy go lucky, complete with boogie woogie piano and guitar chugging straight out of a Chuck Berry songbook, you can't help but just brush her off and just forget about it! AWESOME!

"Don't Steal My Heart" could have been on Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True snuggled somewhere between "Welcome To The Working Week" and "Less Than Zero". A wonderfully catchy song that will have you singing along by the end of the song. 

My favorite track on the album is "Why You Gotta Lie". But it's hard to find a single stand out track to sum up how much fun this album is. For such a young guy, Kurt Baker sure knows how to write great pop music in it's truest form. This guy's got a bright future ahead of him if he keeps this up.

Along with our hero, the band is unbelievable. You have Kris "Fingers" Rogers on piano and Hammond B3, Josh Malia, Michael "Miek" Rodrigue
and Geoff Useless on guitar, Wyatt Funderburk on bass and Craig Sala on drums, along with some special help from Chicago's own Mike Byrne playing guitar on "Just Forget About It", "Kiss Me" and "The Problem". Top notch musicians all the way around. With a band like this, you CAN'T go wrong!

The album closer, "The Problem", is the most punk inspired track on the album. It's faster than the other tracks complete with a all killer no filler guitar solo by Mr. Byrne and even has an ALWAYS welcomed Hammond solo as well. Sure, an organ solo isn't very punk...but punk was always about being true to yourself. So THAT makes it punk rock in my book. My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that the album clocks in at around the 17 minute mark. It's so good you want more, NOW! But I think that if Kurt keeps putting out quality music like this, it just may be worth waiting for.

Track listing:

1 - Just Forget About It
2 - Don't Steal My Heart Away
3 - Can't Have Her Back
4 - Kiss Me
5 - Why You Gotta Lie
6 - The Problem

4 ½ / 5 stars

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interview With Stu Young of The Outsiders

                    L-R Dan Burmester (guitar/vocals), Stu Young (bass/vocals), Niam Hegarty (guitar/vocals) and Dave McDonald (drums)
Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Stu. For
the people who may be new to The Outsiders, can you give us a little
history on the band? How did you guy's get together?

Stu Young: We started writing together in May 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand. We
did some rough recordings for fun then recorded them a little better.
At first we had no big aspirations for the band, we didn't even have a
drummer at the time. But once we finished recording we realized the
songs were good and we needed to get something going so we got our
buddy Dave in on drums and started playing shows. Since then we've
toured Australia 3 times, the U.S twice, Germany, Belgium, The
Netherlands, Wales, England plus we tour New Zealand constantly.

CM: What are some of the bands musical influences? And do you
incorporate those influences into your songs?

SY: We're all punk rock/harcore fans, but everyone listens to different
stuff. Niam and I are pop punk nerds, I listen to a lot of old soul
music, Dave is big on metal and Dan is really big on country music. So
there really is a lot of stuff influencing us musically.

CM: Is there a principle songwriter in the band, or do you all take
part in the songwriting process?

SY: We all contribute. Niam, Dan and I all write and sing in the band
which means that when we're focused we can put songs together very
quickly and stuff doesn't sound to similar.. Dave is a very versatile
drummer which helps a lot as well.

CM: The band has been here in the states for about a month now, on
tour. Is this your first tour here? And how has the audience been
responding to you?

SY: We spent 3 weeks here last year, played Fest 9 and did about 10 other
shows. The response we got was great so we decided to come back for a
proper tour this year. I'm not always the best at judging but from what
I can tell most people at our shows enjoy our tunes which is great.
We're doing quite a few shows with Cobra Skulls & Nothington which has
been a blast, those guys have really been looking after us

CM: Your debut EP just came out here in the states recently. And it is
great. Now, all of the tracks were recorded between '08 and '09. Was
this released in your home country prior to it's release here?

SY: I mentioned earlier we started recording before we even played a show,
the first 5 tracks on  our debut EP are those particular songs. We
released it ourselves at our first show and got a great response from
the EP, which really encouraged us to push ourselves as a band and
what we are capable of doing.

CM: With the tour underway and the EP officially having a U.S.
release, are there any plans for new material in the near future?
If/when this does happen, will it be released here as well as

SY: Well we have been lucky enough here in the states to have Underground Communique
release our EP, but we also have Anchorless Records
releasing our new album 'Shallow Graves'. Its been great having both
labels happy to release stuff here in the states at the same time and
actually work together to help promote the band. In New Zealand
Deadboy Records will be releasing our 'Shallow Graves' record early
next year, and we'll be working on new songs over summer to try and
get another new release out next year sometime.

CM: After your run of stateside gigs, are there plans for more shows
in other countries?

SY: For sure. After this tour we'll probably work on some new tunes for a
couple months then tour Australia & New Zealand in February/March. The
plan is to do Europe and the U.S sometime in the middle of next year,
hopefully with another new album.

CM: With 2011 coming to a close fast, what plans do The Outsiders have
for the rest of the year?

SY: Firstly, we want to make the most of the rest of the tour we're doing
at the moment. We work extremely hard to do this but we also know how
lucky we are to have these opportunities. Once home, we'll be writing
like crazy.

CM: Is there a website you guy's wanna plug where we can get up to
date news on gigs, releases and merch?

SY: Just hit us up on the evil that is Facebook.

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass guy's. I love the EP
and I hope the rest of your shows here in the U.S. go well for you.
And I'm looking forward to more music in the new year. All the best to
you! Thanks again.

SY: Thanks Chris, if it wasn't for people like you it would be even harder
for bands like us to do what we love. Cheers!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

"My Personal Top 10" - Joe Mizzi from About The Mess

Today's featured artist sharing his "Personal Top 10" favorite living stand-up comedians is Joe Mizzi from Chicago's own About The Mess. If you don't know Joe or About The Mess, you should! Their debut EP "Anthem Of Imperfection" is out now on Whoa! Records. And you can catch the band live next Friday, October 28 at LiveWire Lounge and on November 10 at Beat Kitchen, both in Chicago. Now, the man of the hour....take it Joe!

So this is a "Top 10 Living And Active Stand-Up Comics" I'm a huge fan of stand-up comedy. I stuck with the living comics, because if I had to contend with the deceased ones, this list would have taken a month to compile. So many that would have been on that list were recently lost as well, Carlin, Geraldo, Schimmel, etc...and while this list is still very incomplete, I think the videos attached are great samples, for a great list. If as a reader you are a PC snob, you sure as hell won't like my list. But hey, tear up my list and let's hear some of your favorites!

10) Jim Gaffigan -
- We all know this stand-up special...A classic, with many great bits.

9) Maria Bamford -
- She plays the violin, like me, so of course I dig her! Plus, her voice and whole her against other people bits are awesome. She is unique.

8) Will Ferrell -
- OK, not really a stand-up, but one of the best shows ever. Hard to pick a moment from this one.

7) Louis CK -
- Louis is really big right now, and while I am a late comer to his material, I am a huge fan so far.

6) Aziz Ansari -
- I saw him live at the Vic (Theater in Chicago), and was blown away. Extremely entertaining, especially with the whole Raaaaaandy bit he was doing at the time. Hopefully he comes up with more variety.

5) Chris Rock -
- He tackles so many typical comedian topics but takes them to really uncomfortable but hilarious areas. He puts to shame comedians who do the usual men vs. women schticks. I think this clip is a great example.

4) Kathleen Madigan -
- Another person I was a late comer to, but someone I find insanely funny. If she wasn't on this list, Louis Black probably would have been, they seem to go hand in hand.

3) Ron White -
- If you don't think this dude is funny, I can't help you.

2) Lisa Lamineli -
- The only comedian who has ever been able to really do what she does. If you are a PC snob, you will find her absolutely appalling, because you are incapable of getting it, proof that you are a snob.

1) Bill Burr -
- This guy does some bits, that are definitely "male" orientated, but that dig in so perfectly to how guy's think, and how stupid and idiotic and mean and vulnerable we can all be at the same time, awesome. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Music Reviews: P.T.'s Revenge - "Save The Drama"

Sometimes bands fly so far below the radar that they never get noticed until it's too late, and they're long gone. And it's a shame, really, because there are some damn good bands who just don't get the attention they deserve. That's the case with P.T.'s Revenge. The band started out in Livonia, MI in the late 90's and released 2 albums....then broke up. Certain members went on to play in such legendary bands as Common Rider and Teen Idols.

But now their back! And to commemorate the event, the band is releasing their 3rd album "Save The Drama" after sitting in the vaults for 10 years. To be fair, the band broke up right after recording the album and the bands label, Whoa! Records, didn't see the point in trying to promote a band that no longer existed. Can't say I blame them.

But in all fairness to the band the album still sounds fresh and exciting. Songs like "Independence" and  "Chasing Lisa" are riff heavy rockers with a killer beat and sing along choruses. These songs could have been recorded this year and sound just as new and exciting.

Other amazing tracks include "Deserted" with it's catchy hooks mad riffs, this is a stand out track complete with layered vocals by singer
Kevin Sierzega, along with members Matt Demeester (guitar), PRD (guitar), Jeff Sierzega (bass) and John Kay (drums). And "Another Time In Seattle" could have been included on the Bullets To Broadway EP "Drink Positive", which, oddly enough, featured Sierzega on vocals.

Honestly, the time is right for this to come out. Punk rock is at an all time high in popularity, and maybe these guy's will catch the break they so rightfully deserved back when they were the new band on the block. You can't deny great writing and playing. And "Save The Drama" has all that and more! Be on the lookout for NEW P.T.'s Revenge material in the near future.

Track listing:
1. Independence
2. 7:34
3. Ace
4. Last Chance World
5. Chasing Lisa
6. Your Way
7. Deserted
8. Mini-Do
9. Shallow
10. BMX Plus
11. Fallin'
12. Another Time In Seattle
13. What
14. What She Said

4 ½ / 5 stars

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Music Reviews: The Handcuffs - "Waiting For The Robot"

It seems to happen more often than not. Retro becomes hip and is back in style again. It doesn't matter if it's fashion, TV or music. What's old is somehow new again. And nowhere is it more apparent than on the latest album by Chicago's own The Handcuffs. Their new album Waiting For The Robot is retro chic in the highest order.

The album kicks off with the Blondie style "Dirty Glitter". It's definitely a booty shaker tour de force. It's infectious with it's synth and drum beats mixed in with catchy guitar riffs and wonderful vocals by Chloe F. Orwell. This song truly is one of the best tracks on the album. What a way to get things started.

The album doesn't stick to one particular formula. Sure, it's retro in style and sound. But it's the smorgasbord of styles that'll keep you waiting to see what's coming next. Another cool stand out track is "Ohh Baby Baby" with it's funky bass lines and killer horn section, this is a fun energetic track. It's always a blast to hear lyrics like "Dirty glitter twitter talker lover divine. I know you gotta leave but don't give me that line." over killer music played by talented musicians.

"Eight Down" starts out as a nice piano/acoustic style balled, then quickly takes a right turn later on with heavy guitars and drums and strong aggressive vocals. It caught me off guard, that's for sure. But in a GOOD way. Surprises are a good thing in music. It keeps things exciting.

The band, singer/guitarist Orwell and drummer Brad Elvis, along with guitarist Ellis Clark, bassist Emily Togni and piano player Alison Hinderliter, make this a must have for anyone craving the funky 70's, post punk 80's, new wave, or just good fun music to shake what your momma gave you to.

"Baby I Love You" may be my favorite track on the album with Chloe and Brad dueting on this rocker that features a great guitar sound, rolling drum pattern and even maracas. I'm a sucker for maracas in rock songs dating back to "Sympathy For The Devil" by the Stones. 

The kiss off to end all kiss off's is in the song "I'm So Happy That You're Out Of My Life". A fuck off song has never sounded so catchy and funny! Whoever this person is, they made for a great song. From the thumping piano and drums, to Chloe’s vocals, "all I can say is WHOO!"

 The album comes to an end with a beautiful balled called "The Scary Side Of Me". It's a song we can all relate to. We all have the dark side that we try to keep in check and not let our loved ones see. "Love, a word we need to use. Hate, a word we need to lose." SO true!

If you have an open mind for music and have an ear for pop ear candy, you'll find a lot to like or just plain love about this album. It has a little something for everyone. Waiting For The Robot is
a fun record
worth checking out.

Track Listing:
1. Dirty Glitter
2. Miss You On Tuesday
3. Come On Venus
4. Ooh Baby Baby
5. Eight Down
6. Kiss This Goodbye
7. Baby I Love You
8. Vinyl Isabella
9. Everybody Waves Hello
10. Take a Picture
11. I'm So Happy that You're Out of My Life
12. This is a Test
13. The Scary Side of Me

4 / 5 stars

Friday, October 14, 2011

"My Personal Top 10" - Mike Byrne

Chicago is known for a lot of things. Our beautiful skyline, American history, our sports teams, music scene and especially our FOOD! This Friday's featured artists is a man who needs no introduction! He's the lead guitarist in Dan Vapid & The Cheats, a food aficionado and a truly funny guy! With his "Personal Top 10" places to get a good bite to eat, ladies and gentlemen, the one and only "Wing King of Chicago", Mr. Mike Byrne! 

10. Marie's Pizza at 4127 W. Lawrence Ave. It's connected to a liquor store and the inside of the pizza place looks like the Restaurant in Goodfellas that they are hanging out in when Joe Pesci's character does his whole 'You think I'm funny" bit. The pizza is really thin but super tasty.

9. 5 Star Bar on Wednesdays for there 25 cent wings night. 5 Star is located at 1424
W. Chicago Ave. I actually thing 5 Star is a pretty bad place and I would never go there on any night other then wing night. The Wings are really great. They are pretty big and they have a great sauce. You can order up to 25 but I can hardly eat 15.

8. Pequod's Pizza 
at 2207 N. Clybourn. This is one of the best places for Pan pizza. I've never tried there thin crust because the Pan is so good. The caramelized crust is amazing. They have a location in Morton Grove that is in a house. Plus it's walking distance from my place.

Bari - 1120 W. Grand Ave. Bari is a small Italian Grocery store and in the back they have a deli. They make the most amazing Italian Subs in Chicago. They are really cheap too. For a 12 inch sub it will be around $7. They get the bread next door from D'mato's bakery.

6. Tony's Burritos - 1957
W. Belmont. This place has great steak burrito's and really good chips and salsa. It's walking distance to the Beat Kitchen so you can avoid getting a $12 burger and they don't even have french fries. Plus they are open really late.

5. Papajin
- 1551 N. Milwaukee Ave. I'm not a big Chinese food fan but they have great Mongolian Beef. It's a bit pricey but the servings are pretty big.

4. Fat Willy's
- 2416 West Shubert Ave. This place has great BBQ. A full slab of ribs will put you out of commission for the rest of the day. Very meaty and a really good sauce. It's across the street from the movie theater which usually means it's always crowded.

3. Odge's
- 730 N. Damen Ave. They have a great homemade half pound Burger. They also have really good chili. The place is really cool on the inside. It has about 7 tables with old photos of the Three Stooges and Chicago on the wall.

2. Cobra Lounge - 235
N. Ashland. Thursday is wing night and they smoke there wings and they have a really different kind of Buffalo sauce and it's really good. I recommend asking them to cook the wings well done because they will be nice and crispy.

1. Yakzies
- 506 W. Diversey Prky. This place hands down has the best wings in the world. They are small but the "Oh My Gosh" sauce is so tasty. They raised there prices over the last year but on Mondays they have half-off wings. I recommend this place if you are craving wings.

Music News: Dan Vapid & The Cheats Start Recording Debut

It's official! Dan Vapid & The Cheats have started recording their debut long player. The band, singer guitarist Dan Vapid, guitarist Mike Byrne, bassist Simon Lamb and drummer Mike Soucy, are recording up in Milwaukee with producer Justin Perkins. I spoke with Mr. Vapid last night and he told me Soucy's drum tracks were in the can as of yesterday. When asked what the new album will sound like Dan said "I think we sound like a cross between Methadones/Riverdales and the Mopes with some power pop influences thrown in." A release date is still to be determined.

In other Dan Vapid & The Cheats news, the band has also begun work on a split with Sheboygan, Wisconsin's
own Jetty Boys . The 4 song split will feature an original song from each band as well as 1 cover song each. The Cheats will be covering the Pointed Sticks song "Part Of The Noise", with Jetty Boys doing the Roman Line song "Jimmy".

The Cheats recorded their songs with producer Matt Allison at Atlas Studios in Chicago, with the Jetty Boys recording their half at Howl Street Recordings in Milwaukee. Justin Perkins will also help out with the mastering process and the 7" should be available early in 2012. So, be on the lookout for some more great punk rock from The Cheats and Jetty Boys in the new year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Interview With London May

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, London. I know you're busy with the Danzig Legacy tour, so we'll just get right to it. You've been playing drums and recording music with bands most of your life. Who are some your personal music influences as far as drumming goes?

London May: To name just a few influences (and I'm not implying that that I could actually play half of this stuff) : Keith Moon (i.e the Who's "Quadrophenia"), Topper Headon (i.e. The Clash's "Give 'em Enough Rope"), Chuck Biscuits (i.e. D.O.A.'s "Something Better Change"), Bill Stevenson (i.e. Black Flag's "Slip It In"), John Bonham (i.e. Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti"), Phil Rudd (i.e. AC/DC's "Highway to Hell"), Martin Atkins (i.e. PIL's "Flowers Of Romance")... the list could go on forever...Anyone who's interested in slamming drumming should check out these monsters!

M: Besides playing the drums you also play bass. When Glenn Danzig did the Samhain reunion tour in '99 you played bass on the "Initium" and "Unholy Passion" portion of the show while Steve Zing played drums, and then switched to drums for the "November Coming Fire" portion of the set. Did you ever play bass before those shows? Or were you thrust into that spot, having to learn all those songs, for the tour?

I had been playing guitar in a few bands prior to the '99 tour so it wasn't too much of a stretch to pick up the bass at that point. I also actually tried out on guitar too when Damien dropped out--but it was harder than it looks so thankfully Todd Youth stepped in! But I really hadn't drummed much in a while so I had to get back up to speed fairly quick. Now it's just the opposite for the 2011 re-boot, I've been playing drums steadily since those '99 gigs but I haven't picked up the bass in forever. Ha! I'm a bit rusty but it's coming back to me…all that down strumming is a work out!

M:  About ten years ago you were part of a "supergroup", as it were, called Son Of Sam and did a great album called "Songs From The Earth". How did you guy's get together? And did you ever do any low key live gigs?

Thanks man, I'm really proud of that album. Todd had some Samhain type songs he had written after the '99 reunion tour . He asked me and Steve and Davey to help him out. It started as just a 7 " for a planned 7th House fan club release but that progressed to a full length when Nitro records (AFI's label) heard of the collaboration. Todd and I worked out the songs and recorded little cassette instrumental demos at my house and then we mailed them to Steve and Davey. But it was a one way process-- and we never heard Davey or Steve's parts before we went into the recording studio. We just crossed our fingers and hoped it would turn out decent in the end. So a few weeks later we all got together in LA over a long weekend and put all our individual pieces together and it all gelled surprisingly well. Todd and I were also very involved with our own full time bands at that time (him in Danzig, me in Tiger Army) so we both invited members from those bands to participate to spice up the record and also to keep a communal spirit between all the parties. Fortunately it all came out pretty spirited and organic sounding, a rare occurrence especially since before and during the recording process we NEVER EVER all played or rehearsed in the same room together. I just tracked my drums one afternoon and then was asked to come back 2 days later for back up vocals--and that was the FIRST time that I had EVER heard Davey's parts (vocals, melodies, and lyrics) over the music. I was really blown away. He's a total pro and a great writer. We tried to plan some gigs afterwards but it was too complicated with everyone's busy/conflicting schedules. Would have been rad....

M: With all the bands you played in over the years, Reptile House, Samhain, Tiger Army etc, you must have toured the world. Where are some of you favorite places to play live?

LM: I'm pretty easy going and am happy to play any place that'll have me! But seriously, after 30 years I'm most enthused about the off beat and unusual--the weirder and wilder the better! I played on a boat on the river Seine, a crazy bottle smashing club in Mexicali, a cover band bar in Mongolia, a skate park/concert hall in Havana, a jam space in Giza……the list goes on..and I loved every exotic/dangerous minute.

M: When Metallica did their "Guitar Hero" game a couple of years ago, the Samhain track "Mother Of Mercy" was featured on the game with you original drum recording. Do you feel that Samhain has gotten a little more attention from a new generation who may never have heard of the band before this particular video game?

LM: Yeah--it didn't make me rich but I definitely got fewer confused stares when I mentioned Samhain after that game came out! I'm sure it helped keep the band name alive somewhat since the records have been out of print for so long. But most importantly to me was that it really stoked my son out who was really big into video games at the time. Mega thanks to Metallica for championing Samhain for so many years--I'm a big fan of their's as well.

M: Since being on tour with Glenn in '99 and now, as well as Glenn's help with the Son Of Sam album, is there any chance of you recording with him in the near future?

Well there's always a chance...

M: After this tour, what's next for London May? Any new recordings coming up in the new year?

LM: Travel, adventure, charity, music….that's what I'm into and I'm always looking and open to opportunities to do more. Seems like I'm always busy with multiple projects at once and new stuff is always coming up. Fortunately/Unfortunately I say yes to most everything! At the moment I'm in a 2 man "Harp-core" band called "Oogly Boogly" and I'm also jamming with PHILM's Gerry Nestler. It would also be great to do more shows/recordings with my buddy Chris Pontius. I recently did some cool movie and TV stuff and would like to do more. Oh, and a worldwide Danzig Legacy tour in 2012 would be nice…but I'm getting ahead of myself…

CM: Is there a website you wanna plug, where us fans get get news on your next musical venture?

I've found it's easiest and quickest for me to simply update myFacebook  and  Twitter page with all my current band stuff and gigs,etc. So if they are interested just send em there.