Sasha Siem at Joe’s Pub (A Review)


Sasha Siem
Joe’s Pub, NYC
Monday, July 22nd, 2013

At the site of what has become Amy Schumer’s TV home, Joe’s Pub, UK singer-composer Sasha Siem flew in and delivered what felt like an all-too-brief set of short art songs, most of it from her new CD Most of The Boys. The presence of Sasha in a dark dress reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, along with some well-orchestrated chamber backing from a string trio-plus-drummer really made for an eclectic evening.

Songs like “Tug of War”, “Proof”, “Most of The Boys”, “Kind Man’s Kiss”, and “So Polite” were delivered with an incredible speed and unfounded character that only Sasha would be able to interpret. The small chamber group (featuring violinist Jeff Young and cellist Isabel Castellvi) were definitely the kind of ensemble that contributes to blurring the line between indie and indie-classical.

So Polite (live with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra)

As a performer, Sasha Siem is a delightful composer/performer of art songs that, for fans of a very tasty and simultaneously light flavor of music, provides a great rival to artists like Bjork and Sufjan Stevens, and leaves an audience wanting even more. She did do a very short encore (it was 20 seconds), but I believe she is on to something.


Preview of Laila Biali at Subculture


“It is the ultimate task given to the musician, whether as singer or instrumentalist, to create a unique signature or fingerprint that is instantly recognisable as their own. What is surprising and delightful in Laila Biali is that both as vocalist and pianist she accomplishes this with equal aplomb. She is an exciting and unique talent, and I admire her greatly.” – Sting.

Award-winning Canadian Jazz pianist and vocalist Laila Biali has been garnering not only national attention but world-wide recognition for her music, which has been performed at prestigious venues spanning four continents including the North Sea Jazz Festival, Tokyo’s Cotton Club, Peru’s El Festival Internacional de Lima, and Carnegie Hall in New York City. She has toured with Grammy award-winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega and recorded with and supported pop icon Sting.

Laila is performing two more shows of her residency at NYC’s Subculture on Monday, July 22nd and Monday, July 29th at 7 PM. Click here or on the bottom for info/tickets.

Laila takes the best of pop, rock, classical and soul, informs it with her knowledge of Jazz and weaves it all into her musical arrangements. Her latest studio recording Tracing Light received a JUNO nomination for “2011 Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year” and her most recent release Live in Concert, recorded live in February 2012 in front of a gracious audience at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, Canada, captures the spirit of live performance so essential to Jazz. Live in Concert was added in rotation at 73 radio stations in North America.

Laila Biali – Show Me The Place (Leonard Cohen)

Critics have called Laila a “keyboard virtuoso” (Toronto Star) with “a voice that makes the listener shudder” (Montreal Gazette), celebrating her “bold musical ventures, youthful funkiness, ingenuity, verve and depth” (Ottawa Citizen) and her “ability to meld traditional jazz with contemporary pop so effortlessly that neither style seems out of place on the same record” (Spinner Magazine). Her accolades include “SOCAN Composer of the Year” and “Keyboardist of the Year” at Canada’s National Jazz Awards.

As an educator, Laila has been on faculty at Stanford University’s renowned summer jazz workshop. She is also a member of the all female, New York based neo-Classical quartet Rose & The Nightingale whose members have toured with Grammy award-winner Esperanza Spalding. She currently splits her time between Toronto and New York City.

Click here for tickets for Laila’s July 22nd show
Click here for tickets for Laila’s July 29th show


Sasha Siem ~ On Most of The Boys and the Joe’s Pub show


UK composer-vocalist Sasha Siem is releasing her first full-length CD this month, Most of The Boys, and she will be appearing at New York’s Joe’s Pub on July 22nd at 7 PM. Click here for info/tickets or on the link on the bottom.

Sasha had a few minutes to talk to us about the show, which will be a paired-down version of the concert done earlier this year the UK (shown in the video below).

“At the Royal Opera House concert, we had a string quartet, and it was so much fun and exciting for all of them as well because we had Zack Winokur, who was choreographing. He’d also worked with ICE, and he did various experiments with the relationship between movement and sound, and he was getting them to move around the stage. What I think worked was that it wasn’t arbitrary. It began to move in such a way that it was really kind of an urge out of the music somehow, and we were in counterpoint with the sonic world.”

Most of the Boys – Behind the Scenes

“The stage in Joe’s Pub is tiny, so, this will be an acoustic live version without movement. We just recorded the full cycle in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurðsson–That was such a great experience! He’s just a wonderful person to work with! We’re putting together a plan for releasing that at the end of the year, so this is like a little taster of that cycle in its entirety, which we haven’t yet done in New York, so, we’re really looking forward to that!”

Kind Man’s Kiss – Sasha Siem feat. Mivos Quartet

Click here for info/tickets for Sasha Siem at Joe’s Pub


Shows in NYC this weekend (7/11 ~ 7/14)

Ecouter will be in NYC on Thursday and Friday nights this weekend (Image courtesy of Ecouter)Ecouter3

Rhymes with Opera
Criminal Element by David Smooke (plus premiere of 12 one-minute operas by various composers)
JACK, Thursday, 7/11, 7:30 PM (SOLD OUT)
(Editor’s note: A possible 2nd show may be announced–Stay tuned)

CULTUREfix, Thursday, 7/11, 9:30 PM
Goodbye-Blue-Monday, Friday, 7/12, 10 PM
Natalie Spehar, Cello, Vocals
Nikola Ragusa, Flute, Alto Flute
Amelie Brodeur, Piano, Flute, Vocals


Rite of Summer Festival
Bang On a Can All-Stars
Govenor’s Island, Saturday, 7/13, 1 PM & 3 PM

So Percussion & The Joshua Light Show
Schimmel Center for The Arts at Pace University, Saturday, 7/13, 7:30 PM (FREE SHOW)


…and if you like some good acoustic indie music

Dan Coyle/Michela Baranov
Tammany Hall, Thursday, 7/11, 10 PM

Mark Mandeville & Raianne Richards/Steve Pavao
Caffe Vivaldi, Sunday, 7/14, 7 PM

WHY? ~ Kickstarting their Documentary

WHY? the band–Photo courtesy of Natalie Escobedo396603_10151235014998618_1263225577_n

Indie band WHY? are the subject of an upcoming documentary that will be chronicling the making of their current CD Mumps, Etc. as well as everyday business and personal moments from the group and its lead singer, Yoni Wolf. The filmmakers and the band have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for completion of the production of this film, and you can be a great help and kick in some cash by clicking on the link here or on the bottom.

The film’s co-director Scott Fredette spoke to us about how the project came to be.

“I stumbled on to it because Yoni and Josiah moved back to Cincinnati, and a friend of mine (Ben) was also a friend of theirs, and we both just basically decided to take it on. The idea was to film the process of making the new album. We were intrigued by the fact that Yoni moved back into his parents house, which was in a suburb of Cincinnati way far from where he lived in Oakland, CA. It was an interesting approach when he did his 4-tracking–He did the entire album in the dining room.

I’d done some talking with them in the previous year, and I actually started to like their music late in the game (2010), and we were becoming friends during the recording, so I was basically asking them the questions that I’d want to ask, as if a friend would ask them, and then it became a little more about the album process. It was also a different approach because Yoni wrote a majority of the music himself, but he has the other guys that are chiming in and creating a lot of energy from their end. Doug and Josiah are wonderful musicians as well, so there’s lots of input from those guys, but this time was different, so I was intrigued about how that was going to go. That was was the impetus, and we wanted to get into some deeper stuff, like Yoni’s illness and his quirks, and we just wanted to see where it would pan out from the beginning of an album to the end. We wanted to get into his religion, and what makes him and the other guys tick. We didn’t really know where it would go, but this is where we got to, and we still have a long way to go.”

Yoni Wolf himself also weighed in on the project.


“Ben Nicholson was a fan of the group, and he was a friend of my father’s. It was his initial idea to do the documentary, and he got Scott Fredette on board. Scott originally did not know the band, but he was initiated pretty quickly when we started filming, and then Alex [Parks] was brought on as a producer. The film surrounds the making of Mumps, Etc, and has some day-to-day stuff–drama occurs, and there’s issues with my health–lots of ups and downs. It was a rough couple of years and they were there for it. I didn’t end up being the most sympathetic character in the movie, I was more of an anti-hero.”

Click here to contribute to WHY’s Kickstarter campaign

WHY? (

Edinburgh Film Review: ‘The Sea’

Chris McGovern:

Hilary Hahn performed on another soundtrack, this time to indie film The Sea–score composed by Andrew Hewitt. I hope this film is better than The Village.

Originally posted on Variety:

Irish author John Banville expressed lofty surprise when his dense, defiantly nonlinear novel “The Sea” won the 2005 Booker Prize, claiming in an interview that the award usually goes to “good, middlebrow fiction.” Perhaps aptly for a film about the persistence of memory, those words have come back to haunt him in this good, middlebrow adaptation — which, despite being scripted by Banville himself, sacrifices much of the novel’s structural intricacy for Masterpiece-style emotional accessibility. Lingering literary cachet and a tony ensemble should secure select arthouse bookings for Stephen Brown’s handsome debut feature, but “The Sea” might find sailing smoothest in ancillary.  

A short but stately meditation on memory, first (and last) love and the selfishness of grief, merging time planes with disorienting frequency, “The Sea” was a surprise Booker winner, beating Kazuo Ishiguro’s far bigger-selling (yet not dissimilarly themed) “Never Let Me Go” by a single vote. To…

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WHY? and Fight The Fear ~ Concert Reviews

Indie band WHY? featuring Josiah Wolf (left) and Yoni Wolf (right); Photo courtesy of Jacob Hand299417_10151205556738618_1063136970_n

The Space
Hamden, CT
Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Indie band WHY? made a long-awaited appearance (postponed from Feb due to a snowstorm) at Hamden, CT’s The Space and were absolutely intriguing to this newbie. Though the core band is usually the two Wolf brothers, Yoni and Josiah, along with guitarist Doug McDiarmid, they have been performing with additional musicians, including Sarah Winters, who’s touring with them as a keyboardist/backing vocalist, and a second drummer/percussionist (the 2 drummers actually were using partial kits each with a vibraphone on either side of the stage), and the music has been very interesting on stage! Continue reading

Lauren O’Connell ~ “Out of Focus” (Demo–new song)

This clip just came out on her YouTube channel.

After the song, at about 3:24 in, Lauren speaks about the new website called, which is a webpage that has been created by Pomplamoose’s Jack Conte for the purposes of helping indie artists. Lauren and many other indie artists all have pages on it, so please check it out!

Click here to download/stream “Out of Focus” on Bandcamp

Lauren O’Connell is creating Songs/Patreon (Patreon page)

Lauren O’

Everything Went Down Pretty Good

From L to R: Noah Drew and Kate Tucker, stars of Everything Went Down EWDbar

[a film review]
Everything Went Down
Starring Kate Tucker and Noah Drew
Directed by Dustin Morrow
Little Swan Pictures
1 hour, 25 minutes
Rating: Not rated

If you are a fan of the indie musical Once, you will probably enjoy Everything Went Down just as much–Like that film, this one takes the musical genre into a much more incidental and realistic world, and still manages to leave one feeling the music as both a delightful standout and an equal narrative to the dialogue as opposed to just being in the background.

EDITOR’S NOTE: By the way, I did do a preview for this film about a year ago at this time when it was still getting backing for its completion, and even interviewed both Kate Tucker and the film’s director Dustin Morrow if you would like to check those out

Continue reading

Nataly Dawn/Lauren O’Connell ~ A Review

Lauren O’Connell doing a soundcheck at The Slipper Room (Photo courtesy of Julia Nunes) laurenoconnellsndchkNYC1

Nataly Dawn
Lauren O’Connell
The Slipper Room
Lower East Side, Manhattan, NYC
Wed, March 27th, 2013

The Slipper Room, with its quasi-burlesque atmosphere and perhaps the tiniest stage I’ve ever seen big names performing on (I’ve done grade-school performances on bigger stages), was the venue where singer-songwriters Nataly Dawn (Pomplamoose) and Lauren O’Connell did their 2-night NY stand on a current U.S. tour together.

Lauren O’Connell made her entrance with barely a reaction from the audience (I know the sound of 2 hands clapping is not totally celebratory, but I was happy to be the one that provided it because her appearance, for me, is celebratory), but by the time she settled in and gave this barroom-sized crowd her music and her charm as a performer, she successfully won them over. With an old acoustic guitar and singing in a purely crisp Americana voice that recalls Emmylou Harris, Lauren O’Connell did some great live renditions of her current standard repertoire such as “Oncoming Traffic”, “White Noise”, “I Will Burn You Down”, “I Belong To You” (sung with fellow songster Ryan Lerman, who is along on this tour with them), and “Chicken Wire” (with a surprise appearance by Julia Nunes, a close friend and colleague of both O’Connell and Dawn). I have to say that my greatest take-away from having seen Lauren performing live in person is watching her body language as a performer–Something very free and natural about the partial twist or two-step that her leg tends to do while singing and playing. It’s not a distraction by any means (certainly not any more than Elton John raising his right-handed eyebrow when he performs), but I can’t help but adore seeing that. Continue reading