THE LISTENING ROOM
Sponsored by East Wisconsin Savings Bank
A unique singer/songwriter from Appleton, Chris Jourdan picked up a guitar at age 18, fell in love and began to harness the power of music. Formerly the frontman for Wisconsin jam band The Wandering Foolz, as a solo artist, Chris puts on high-energy acoustic performances. Described by some as John Mayer meets Pearl Jam with incredibly busy but not invasive guitar playing.
Here’s Jourdan’s “Downtown (Scratch the Surface)” https://youtu.be/rIe-pCfLZYc
“I've always followed my ears whilst finding my way through this wonderful musical landscape that is before me. With a little help of my friends as well, I've found a vast variety of music sustains my interests. After all, I'm a mere human with a set of emotions...and the music I decide to put into my ears tends to follow. But, if I must whittle it down, here are my two favorite bands that you might not know about. I picked these bands due to my emotional attachment to them. In the darkest times in my life we've shared moments. Also in the funnest and brightest times too. Though we are not in the same room very often, their music has journeyed my soul and I am thankful.
“One of the bands I just cannot get enough of is an amazing rock band out of Japan. They go by the name One OK Rock. My close friend and drummer Alex first brought their music to me. I heard a couple songs and the it brought me back to my youth. It was loud in all the best ways. The chugging yet precise guitar riffs that were so incredibly catchy, they were almost lyrical. The One OK Rock sound features extremely tight, almost progressive drumming alongside easy to digest bass lines.
“Of course, to complete this for me they had to have an amazing vocalist, and they do in Taka Moriuchi. This guy is an absolute powerhouse. Vocal range that will bring you to tears at moments in songs like “Heartache,” or make you shout along in the song “Decision.” Both songs can be found in their first all-English release 35. It defines what Pop-Rock should be.
“They have mixed both Japanese and English lyrics into their music on most other releases. I believe this has created a conversation in which both Japanese and American audiences are curious about what the other is saying. They are literally one of the biggest bands in the world. Google image search their show at Yokahama Arena and you'll see what I mean. Pay attention to One OK Rock!
See Crowds for One OK Rock at Yokohama https://goo.gl/images/QMKujt
One OK Rock “Decision” https://youtu.be/j4sEvo4ojq8
Next we venture to Chicago and the one and only Umphrey’s McGee. With an extremely versatile setlist and an ensemble of beyond-stellar players, these guys will surely deliver something you love if you give them long enough. I’m shy to admit the number of times I’ve seen them...my friends will tell you it’s more than a lot!
“One of the first things I’ll tell you is hang on to your pants. These guys are all in! Hands down, they have one of the best light shows in the business! And... If you have enough time you'll hear them hitting on multiple styles of music like they own them all. It'll have you moving without a doubt.
“They shine strong with the song “Glory.” I’ve shed some tears during this song. I urge you to listen to the many versions they have put out of this beautiful song. To me, it feels like the guitar is shedding tears as he plays it. This song alone can carry me through some hard times.
“If you wanna really hear them open up, check out the song “Divisions” which is harder to come by these days but is absolutely epic, and well defines what the band is capable of. This band can take a song, cover it, and make it their own. Check them doing “Africa” by TOTO, or my personal favorite, “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel. They also do a stellar version of “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. Check out their version from Red Rocks and you won’t be able turn it off. I strongly encourage you to peel yourself off your devices and go see them live the next chance you get. They really care about you coming. But if you can’t make it they offer their concerts live as they happen for a small cost in HD from folks such as tourgigs.com and nugs.net. Don't miss it!
Umphrey’s McGee “Glory/Bridgeless” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ43IwF-oWk&feature=share
Umphrey’s McGee “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=998TzVK7pQ4&feature=share
“I appreciate you taking some time to see what’s in my jukebox! Now go put it in yours!”
Avenue Programming Director
It’s Rob’s job to listen to music, and he listens to a lot of it. He’s been busy adding a lot of new music to the Avenue’s playlist recently. What’s caught his attention? Well, you can tell by tuning in to The Avenue, but here are some recent stand outs.
“I continue to be blown away by how much new and original music comes from this community. Several local artists have released new albums over the summer. Kurt Gunn’s Long Drive to Nowhere is fantastic from beginning to end. On first play, I remarked that most of the songs were hits, or should be. You’ll hear several cuts right here on The Avenue.
“Nicholas Raymond recently stopped in Avenue studios and gave live performances of a couple cuts off of his newly released solo effort, Summer Shoes. Raymond’s vocal range is really impressive and enjoyed his observations about the creative process. Local audiences know him as part of Traveling Suitcase. Check out “Lights and Sounds and Colors Collide,” “Fang,” and “Ms. Conception.” Listen here: https://nicholasraymond.bandcamp.com/album/summer-shoes
“I’m loving the latest releases from Dead Horses’ My Mother the Moon, Kyle Megna and The Monsoons’ The Great Divide, Listening’s Party Less is More, Feed The Dog’s Tenderloin, and Adriel Denae’s self titled solo debut. All of these local favorites have had a place on The Avenue playlist and it’s great to be able to go deeper with them. And speaking of local favorites – I’m also very excited to add new tracks from J-Council including “Careful” and “Never” which showcase Jon Wheelock’s signature soulful groove.
“As for Mile of Music artists, I’ve enjoyed spending more time listening to Smooth Hound Smith, the new Bascom Hill release West Wind Girl, and discovering more music from Girl Blue.
Smooth Hound Smith “California Sway” https://youtu.be/krW2jT_tsCI
“As for national acts, I keep coming back to the latest releases from Randy Newman, Brandi Carlisle, Ray Lamontagne and John Prine. You may notice Mary Black showing up on The Avenue’s playlist. I’ve been a fan of hers for some time and as big as she is in Ireland, she should be more well known here. She’s timeless – if you haven’t heard her before check her out. I had the opportunity to meet her a while ago and found her to be as authentic as her music.
Mary Black “Carolina Rua” https://youtu.be/UOS_DxyBPRQ
“And of course, as a long time fan of the Cowboy Junkies I eagerly dug into their new album All That Reckoning and it doesn’t disappoint… it’s understated and haunting as always.
Cowboy Junkies “All That Reckoning Pt. 1” https://youtu.be/bLUVYVkAyOE
The Right Now
The Right Now has made a few stops in the Appleton area including Mile of Music 6. The 7-piece Chicago based band has a pop-meets-soul soul sound that will get you up and dancing! Their latest release “Starlight” caught the attention of NPR’s Sound Opinions who hailed Berecz’s performance as “stronger...than Adele” while others dubbed the songs “insanely infectious and incredibly well crafted.”
You can check that out for yourself here: The Right Now's “Too Late” video.
Learn more at therightnow.com
Teddy Pendergrass “Love TKO”
The Right Now has a long history with this song. Musically, it’s a pretty direct influence on us –smooth, sultry, midtempo, and straddling the line between 70s and 80s R&B…that's one of our happy places. Teddy’s voice is so smooth but conveys such urgency, and I think that’s true of our own Stefanie Berecz too. For a long time, it was the unofficial anthem of The Right Now’s tour van – we’d be loading out of a venue and one of us would sing out “Think I better let it go…” and it was a vocal free-for-all from that point on. Listening back, it’s fun to hear all the ideas we stole from this song...those rhythm hits underneath the “looks like another love TKO” line have definitely shown up in a TRN song or two.
Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real “Fool Me Once”
I don’t know if anyone watching The Right Now would associate us with any kind of country music, but we all value the power of a good singer singing a well-written song. That’s basically what it’s all about. There are a billion examples out there, but lately Chris (guitar) and Brendan (keyboards, bandleader) have been digging into this 2017 album from Lukas Nelson. Some songs, like this one, are right-down-the-middle country-rock tunes, and others are deeper and more complex, but if “Fool Me Once” doesn’t grab you by the guts, then I don’t know what will. The refrain is “Fool me once, shame on you, I'll be gone,” and Lukas sings it with such swagger – but it’s really a scaredy-cat song, basically saying “I’ve been hurt before and I’ll run at the first sign of trouble.” How do you pull off so much bravado singing that?? I dig the patience and restraint in the guitar lines. It doesn't hurt that Lukas is Willie Nelson’s son. You can hear the Willie influences, but Lukas is his own man and he sounds great.
Chaka Khan “Like Sugar”
Oh yes, some Chaka. We’ve been covering her for 10 years now – she’s a Chicago hometown hero and just so, so, so underrated. Her new single is based on a simple pentatonic groove, with plenty of triangle percussion (and those of you who’ve seen our live show know that we love some triangle!) Stefanie points out how it’s similar to our track “Hooked.” (https://youtu.be/eLQfr6VKMx4) Chaka’s greatness isn’t on full display here, but her imagination and openness to new sounds are easy to hear. This track is like sugar....so sweet! And the video is just a delight. And from our guitarist, Chris: “I've learned to trust Chaka. When I spot a record of hers that I don’t recognize, I buy it with implicit trust, and have yet to be disappointed. TAKE A CHANCE!”
If you’ve attended last year’s Christmas on The Avenue concert or Uncovered Too in June, you’ve seen and heard her perform with her father, Steve March-Tormé. And just like her father, she has plenty of opinions on music! To mark back-to-school week, we thought we’d check in with a school-aged member of The Avenue family, Miss Ruby March-Tormé, and find out what music has caught her attention.
“Aw, sweet!! I’ve got my own Listening Room! Being the youngest here, my music choices tend to be newer songs, though I do love a lot of older music too, thanks to my dad. It’s also stuff you don’t usually hear on the radio. Almost all of the stuff that I listen to is musical theater, simply because it’s one of my biggest passions. I love how the songs really tell a story and you can tell the actors are feeling what they’re singing. I think that’s one of the greatest things about the genre."
“We’ll start off with the most popular of my faves: Dear Evan Hansen, by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul. It’s a musical about a kid named Evan Hansen, who has a social anxiety disorder that makes it hard for him to connect with his peers. Evan learns that a boy in his class recently committed suicide, and through a misunderstanding, the boy’s family thinks that Evan was his only friend. Evan goes along with the lie, and the story continues. It sounds dark, but it’s surprisingly uplifting. If you’re going to listen to it, make sure you have tissues nearby because YOU WILL CRY. We went to see it on Broadway last summer and there wasn’t a single dry face in the audience. On top of that, the music is stunningly gorgeous and all the actors are incredibly talented. (It won SIX Tonys in 2017!) My personal favorite song is “You Will Be Found,” which ends the first act."
You Will Be Found https://youtu.be/mSfH2AuhXfw
“Another musical I’m in love with is Be More Chill by Joe Iconis. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It had a two-month Off-Off-Broadway run and a cast album in 2015, but two fans took to social media and spread it like the plague. Now it’s as popular as “Dear Evan Hansen!” The musical is about a boy named Jeremy, an awkward high schooler with a crush on a cute girl named Christine. Jeremy takes a pill called the SQUIP, a quantum supercomputer that implants itself into Jeremy’s brain and tells him how to be more chill (pun intended) and win over Christine. Wacky! It’s geared more towards teenagers and millennials than Dear Evan Hansen, but it’s definitely still worth checking out. The music is of course phenomenal, and totally worth your time. My favorite songs are “I Love Play Rehearsal” and “Michael in the Bathroom.”
Michael in the Bathroom https://youtu.be/Dj1P-5Ey4dU
“My current favorite is – surprise! – not a musical. It’s an album comprised of musical theater songs! Two-Player Game, by George Salazar and Joe Iconis (Name sound familiar? Joe wrote “Be More Chill!”) contains songs written by Joe, and sung by George (although, Joe sometimes sings, too...there might also be some kazoo action). George played Michael, Jeremy’s best friend, in Be More Chill, and his singing in this album is equally, if not more, incredible. My current favorites are “Broadway, Here I Come!” and “The Answer.” First time listening to them, I was so excited I can only express it through keysmashes: ASJDFJHBIJADIHWSJIFKJD!! Be sure to check them out!"
Broadway, Here I Come! https://youtu.be/UPXYg3SfDVk
“My fourth and final (for now...) recommendation is Little Windows, by Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones. I’m normally ix-nay on country music, but I can’t help but love this adorable album. The songs are frustratingly catchy, with great harmonies and clever lyrics. It’s easily the most lighthearted and blissfully simple of my selections. One of my favorite songs is “Make a Wish on Me.” If you prefer more modern pop tunes, this is the album for you."
Make a Wish on Me https://youtu.be/4ds-kuXrpqI