Radical Face: “So, collect your scars and wear ’em well, Your blood’s a good an ink as any” – The Chapel (May 12, 2016)

The Chapel, San Francisco
Written by Erica Andreozzi

I first saw Radical Face back in Nov 2014 at Iceland Airwaves music festival, thanks to a girl standing next to me up front who said I MUST stay for his set (and boy was I glad I did). Not having known anything about him, I was quickly taken back by the clever tales that he strung into dark (yet witty) songs — tales backed by sweeping strings (my favorite, the cello!) and piercing percussion. I later learned that Radical Face – the moniker of multifaceted musician Ben Cooper — has “always wanted to write a book,” and so it makes sense that his songs are literally book chapters COME TO LIFE. At the early age of 19, Ben wrote two books that tragically were lost in a hard drive crash; but instead of giving up, he turned to music. “I thought: why not do them as records? There could be a set of people, and we follow their bloodlines,” he says, “and instead of passing down genetic traits, we could pass down melodic patterns that mutate with each generation.”

Taking flight with this idea, Ben began working on a series of records (recorded in the tool-shed behind my family’s house nonetheless) collectively called ‘The Family Tree.’ He explains the 8-year journey here: “It all began from a desire to write my own family saga, only in music form instead of a novel. So I started a series of albums that were all interconnected, beginning with The Roots, onto The Branches and finally The Leaves which I just released. Along the way, there were enough songs that didn’t fit within the length of each album, which I collected into a series called The Bastards. All of the songs are related to the others in some way or another, and this website was designed as a guide to help you discover all the different connections… A great place to start is ‘Family Portrait‘ which is the beginning of the Family Tree, all songs and stories stem from this one.”

This TREE-O of records (Bear Machine Records, Nettwerk Music Group) collectively garnered a strong fan base for Ben both in Europe (especially) and the States, and Ben was able to secure two nights back-to-back at the Chapel, the first of which was SOLD OUT. A down-to-earth Jacksonville native, Ben was shocked to see that all these people came to see him play some “sad bastard music” on a weeknight, and warned them of going “down the bummed rabbit hole.” Although some of his songs are indeed “dark” — ‘Ghost Town‘ (about a guy that ends up on the road cause he murders alot), ‘Black Eyes‘ (about domestic abuse), ‘The Mute‘ (about a kid who can’t hear) — he adds lots of levity in between with his dry humor and hilarious commentary. Standouts for me were Black Eyes, We’re on our way (with some intense hand-clapping that Ben joked was really a way to torture his band mates), Welcome Home (awesome “anthem-ic” sing-a-long by the crowd), and OF COURSE Always Gold (where Ben teased his drummer Nick about messing up the keyboard intro, haha). The encore of The Mute and Wrapped in Piano Strings (an oldie but goodie) were awesome as well, and we all perked up with a smile when Ben muttered “Don’t tempt me” in response to a fan requesting that he “Take his shirt off.” The only thing I left bummed about was not hearing ‘The Crooked Kind,’ as this is my absolute FAVORITE Radical Face song, and I was hoping to sing-a-long to the verse that still slays me every time: “So, collect your scars and wear ’em well, Your blood’s a good an ink as any.” For those of you on the East Coast, you can catch him next in Philly, NYC, and the Newport Folk Fest. A radical Radical Face that you definitely don’t want to miss!

(see below for videos and more detail from the show)

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Half Moon Run- “She wants to know just who I am…She can make you work for the worth that she has”

Half Moon Run– Rough Trade, London

(January 31, 2013)

Half Moon Run (my favorite new disocvery of 2013) is a talented young band from Canada that was born out of hardships/desperation in Montreal’s Mile-End district. The original trio (now quartet) were motivated to create a unique sound restless indie, pop and folk layered with beautiful rhythmic harmonies, delicate guitar lines and subtle electronica.

Devon Portielje’s remarkable voice is beautifully backed up by Connor Molander and Dylan Phillips. Phillips often plays drums and keys simultaneously as Molander and Portielje shuffle between guitar, keys, samplers, and percussion. Just last year (2013), picked up a 4th member, multi-instrumentlist Isaac Symonds, who adds vocals, guitar, mandolin, keyboards and percussion. Altogether, the create a soundscape of folk harmonies with psychedelic arrangements and a hint of Radiohead-esque electronica. The selling point for me was when they used TRIPLE DRUMS (staggered “hocketing” style) for their huge hit, ‘Call Me in the Afternoon.’  The only other bands I have seen do triple drums since then are The Boxer Rebellion (song called ‘New York’) and Wild Cub (song called ‘Thunder Clatter’). I am STILL LEVITATING from their performance at Village Underground (first time I saw them), and had to see them THREE MORE TIMES (Green Man, O2 Shepard’s Bush, Rough Trade East) when they were touring through the UK that same year.

They are just an insanely talented musicians with siiiiiiick stage presence and dramatic gestures that ooze all sort of sexiness. They seem SO COMFORTABLE with the crowd (always engaging with us), and it might have something to do with the fact that they toured for a few years in Canada before they came over here to play.  And there are so many layers of sounds that I never know what beat to move my body to! It’s hard to pick favorites, but I must say that Call Me In the Afternoon, She Wants to Know, Give Up, Judgement, Full Circle, Fire Escape, and 21 Gun Salute are on the top. I also really enjoy their acoustic, folk-driven cover of Pink Mountaintop‘s Creature, which they always save for the end and bring a wooden board out on stage to create fierce, feverish STOMPS. Plus, it’s one of the only songs they whip out the lovely mandolin for.

It happened to be CRAZY ODDS that my FAVORITE NEW BAND of 2013 (Half Moon Run) were playing ON MY BIRTHDAY (see videos/pics of the O2 Shepard’s Bush gig in November). Very lucky lady indeed! My head was BOBBING AROUND non-stop (like a true Bobblehead) from all the hypnotic beats, seductive guitar lines, and sexy vocals. Restless elements of indie, pop, & folk fused together to create an irresistible sound. Not to mention that they could basically win an academy award for their animation on stage. Devon (lead vocals) was SLAYING HIS GUITAR so hard that he actually CUT HIS FINGERS on the strings and continued to play with BLOOD SMEARING ALL ACROSS THE SHAFT. That’s DIE HARD right there, and I was right in front to see it unfold before my eyes. 

In the end, I was VERY LUCKY to have met these magic makers (see pic of me and Devon below) at both Green Man and Rough Trade East, and I CAN’T WAIT to see them again when they play the British Summertime Festival at Hyde park this Saturday (July 12, 2014) with Neil Young, The National, Tom Odell, and Lucy Rose.

VIDEOS:

21 Guns Salute:

Judgement:

Unofferable:

Call Me in the Afternoon:

She Wants to Know:

PICTURES:

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Half Moon Run– O2 Shepard’s Bush Empire, London

(Nov 18, 2103)

BEST BIRTHDAY TREAT EVER!!! Front & center for my FAVORITE NEW BAND OF 2103. ❤

VIDEOS:

Turn Your Love:

Unofferable:

Need it:

Give Up:

Full Circle:

She Wants to Know (beginning):

Vampire (Pink Mountaintop cover):

PICTURES:

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Half Moon Run– Green Man, Wales (Aug 18, 2103)

VIDEOS:

Full Circle:

PICTURES:

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Half Moon Run– Village Underground, London

(June 25, 2013)

VIDEOS:

Call me in the Afternoon:   (MY FAVORITE!)

Nerve:

Judgement:

Drug You:

Give Up:

She Wants to Know:

Vampire (Pink Mountain cover):

PICTURES:

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