Ben Abraham – “You’re hiding like a memory… Calling to the weakness in my soul”: The Independent (May 19, 2016)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

I am very surprised that I never stumbled upon Ben Abraham when I was living in Melbourne last year (Jan – May), as I would have surely stopped in my tracks if I heard ‘Speak‘ as I passed by the usual buskers on Melbourne’s famous Bourke Street (wonder if he ever busked there). Speak is surely one of the standout tracks (in my opinion) on his debut album, Sirens (Secret Canadian).

A son of two Indonesian rockstars (both parents in a successful 70’s pop group called Pahama), Ben had music in his blood, and his relentless urge to “SPEAK” would eventually manifest into a musical masterpiece that would speak to more than Melbourne. “I never wanted to be a musician… I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and although I never quite made it down that path, that desire I had to tell stories still came with me,” Ben said to the crowd that night at The Independent as the opening act for the fantastic Damien Jurado (see review here). Ben’s desire to tell stories soon became a regular routine at his day job entertaining children in hospitals in Melbourne; Eight years later, he honed this craft into the beautiful album (Sirens) that has been sending SIRENS across international boundaries (esp. the UK, US and Canada). This album was recorded with a rotating cast of friends and collaborators including Gotye and Tim Shiel, as well as longtime friend Sara Bareilles (‘This is on Me‘).

Previously having played at Holwer in Melbourne (where I last saw Harrison Storm and Daniel Champagne) and the Servants Jazz Quarters in London (where I last saw Samantha Crain, Ben was eager to announce that tonight was his “first time in San Fran, and actually the first ever tour in the states.” Sporting a right red Hawaiian shirt and big grin, Ben (who usually is “not a fan of doing covers”), was all amped up and feeling “beachy enough” to cover what he thinks is “one of the greatest songs ever written,”Hyper Ballad‘ by Bjork. (He should definitely apply to play Iceland Airwaves… it was one of my favorite festivals of all time!)

 

As if that didn’t raise enough hairs on our arms, he followed with a gorgeous track called  ‘Home‘, and then with the epic encore of ‘Speak.’ Speak is a gorgeous song that just builds and builds with awesome anticipation, and by the end you might find yourself wiping tears off your face. The honest, timid lyrics about ‘wanting to communicate with others but somehow being pushed away’ is definitely a shared struggle most of us face, especially with the recent explosion of social media, and I hope we can all take Ben’s song as a call to humanity for deeper human connection. If the emotive, echoing effects of his vocals in the mic towards the end don’t “SPEAK” to you, then I’m not sure what will. Be sure to grab a copy of the album!

Show Me the Way (Playlist: Feb 16, 2016)

Show Me the Way

Compiled Feb 16, 2016

New playlist inspired by past shows (City & Colour, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, Samantha Crain, Max Frost, Penguin Prison, Tow’rs) as well as new discoveries (Owl Paws, Meet Me in Orbit) from awesome opening performances. I especially tip my hat to Owl Paws (reminds me of Local Natives a bit), Meet me in Orbit (reminds me of Geographer and Radio Dept. a bit), and Midi Matilda, three local bands that are really making names for themselves in the SF/Oakland music scene.

Max Frost, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, Penguin Prison, and Tow’rs were definite STANDOUTS for me overall, and you can read more about them in my blog reviews (Tow’rs review coming soon!). Knowing that I loved Max Frost, one of my expert music buddies recommended I check out Caught a Ghost, a LA-based artist that surely DID peak my interest (hints of Max Frost and Prefuse 73) and who I hope makes his way up to NorCal for a tour. Other new discoveries were King Charles (a London-based artist affiliated with Mumford & Sons), The Royal Concept, Elle King, and Hurricane Dean. I thank my sister for introducing me to Elle King, and I’m stoked to see Elle at the Fox Theater in Oakland at the end of this month. Hurricane Dean was a lucky find through two German dudes that I met at the Penguin Prison show in SF. The guitar riff in their song, Flat Random Noise, reminds me of Foals (specifically the song, Balloons) and the vocals remind me of Vampire Weekend – two bands that I LOVE!

I’m not surprised that I met peeps with good music taste at Penguin Prison, for that show was a BLAST and had me dancing in a state of ecstasy ALL NIGHT. ‘Show Me the Way,’ was as STANDOUT track for me and will serve as my go-to theme song for the rest of this month.

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Here’s a Spotify playlist with most of the songs (some still missing):

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You can download all of the songs (out of order) from my link on Box.com

https://app.box.com/s/d1xth8tvfd54c0ozx8wp6ybnect4ydrb

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Coco Chitty- King Charles   

Lover Come Back- City And Colour          

Ex’s & Oh’s- Elle King    

Show Me The Way- Penguin Prison   

Thank You- Nathaniel Rateliff And The Night Sweats   

Fashion- The Royal Concept

The Swan & the East- Tow’rs       

Sleeping At Night- Caught A Ghost       

The Things I Forgot- Owl Paws    

Flat Random Noise- Hurricane Dean     

Lady Percy- King Charles 

Calling Out- Penguin Prison    

Wasting Time- Nathaniel Rateliff And The Night Sweats  

Paranoia- Max Frost

No Sugar In My Coffee- Caught A Ghost   

The Fields- Owl Paws    

Don’t Fuck with My Money- Penguin Prison

We Are Grown- Meet Me in Orbit        

Circles- Tow’rs   

Caught in a Daze- Penguin Prison

Stranger – Midi Matilda    

Nice and Slow- Max Frost

If I Had a Dollar- Samantha Crain  

 

 

 

 

Samantha Crain- “When you come back, can you bring my heart” [review] Amnesia in SF (Jan 19, 2016)

Amnesia in San Francisco
Written by Erica Andreozzi

She may be a kid at face (check out her 2013 album, Kid Face) and kid at heart (loved her anecdotes and cute giggles), but surely is a goddess of soul-tinged folk. Samantha Crain‘s (Ramseur Record)  performance last night at Amnesia was simply stunning and was definitely the BEST TUESDAY NIGHT I’ve had in a long time. It had been nearly two years since I last saw her perform in London at the Servant’s Jazz Quarters, and forgot how much I swoon for her songwriting. She gave us a healthy serving of new tracks (Elk City, Kathleen, Outside the Pale, When You Come Back, If I Had a Dollar) from her most recent album, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree, as well as some oldie but goodies (For the Miner, Churchill, Lions, The Dam song, Santa Fe, Kid Song), and even a fresh new gem (The Lonliest Handsome Man) that she hasn’t yet released. She also surprised us with a Woodie Guthrie tune and an EPIC ENCORE cover of Radiohead‘s ‘Creep.’ I’m so glad to hear that she is recording her next album in Oakland and that she’ll be back soon! We’ll certainly make sure to have more cover song requests lined up to to keep tradition with those epic encores. 👍🏻🤗

(See below for more details and videos from the show)

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She may have a “kid face,” but she’s got a seasoned soul. Love the lyrics in this one.

“Brave it all to you can’t find no way I found, I found the way
saving all you feel through your kid face
I found, I found the way.”

Samantha introduced this song as one she wrote while en route on a move out to Santa Fe. She has us all laughing out loud when proceeding to explain that she needed to get out of her small town in Oklahoma — Wichita — after she spotted a newspaper headline about a “man dying of an atomic wedgie.” That was the last draw. Haha.

“And I don’t live my time like I should
But they’re killin’ off my childhood
Taking all my heroes babe
One by one
Everyone famous is gone (slayed)
..
So I’m headin’ back to Santa
I look back then I look away.”

Samantha had us laughing once again when she mentioned that one of her songs “for some strange reason” did “really well on the charts in Manitoba, Canada (very small farm town) — the cows must have loved it,” and that she felt she needed to give a shout-out to Manitoba one of her songs. We all proceeded to rally behind her when she called out “Manitoba” in this one — I’m a huge fan and can definitely relate to the nomad-themed chorus of “everyone wants to go somewhere, everyone wants to go all the time.” We also all “moooooo”-ed (like a cow) in favor of this one.  😉

She then introduced this song as one inspired by a woman who proceeded to tell Samantha “her whole life story” at a bar, “complaining that she could not get out of Elk City because of a guy she fell in love with after he fixed her washing machine.” Haha. Even though the initial connection via the washing machine (“if you know what I mean”) was kind of funny, Samantha felt for this woman and wrote this beautiful song from her perspective.

Then came one of the awesome gems from her newest album.

Soon after, Samantha introduced this next song by first asking the audience if anyone ever had their heart broken, and then quickly followed with some witty banter when only one woman initially raised her hand. She then proceeded to tell us the story about the man who once broke her heart and then followed with this gorgeous, heart-wrenching gem. MY HEART was surely broken when hearing her belt out, “when you come back, could you bring my heart.”  ❤

We were lucky to then hear a beautiful new song that she hasn’t yet played before. She def hammers on our heartstrings with this one.

Samantha said that this next song was inspired by a message that she once got in a fortune cookie : “teaspoon in the morning, tablespoon at night.” Haha. The way she cleverly weaves this into such a lyrically-lavish song is very impressive. I love the line, “so blame me for what I cannot finish..my whole life I thought I was an opportunist, but I’m noooooot.” SOOOOOOOOOO good.

Samantha introduced Kathleen as a song about “friends that don’t bail on you…non-shitty friends.” Her friend Kathleen is one of them.

One of my favorites from her earlier album, You.

Gem from her earlier album, Kid Face.

Someone then called out a request for this one and Samantha said she was unsure if she’d be able to remember it (very old song). Even though I gave her a lil’ “go got this” shout-out, she surely didn’t need it!

Another request that we are glad she played!

Before sending us home happy and fulfilled her her awesome, non-skimpy set, Samantha asks, “Can I just play this one song for you before ya’ll go home?” (as if we would have said no!) … “I was rocking out to this one as I was driving across the bridge from Oakland, and I thought we could all sing it together.” I love her lil’ grin as began playing the intro to the song and says, “oh yeah, we know THAT chord change right?” from the crowd’s initial ‘aaaaaah’ reaction. We certainly all DID know the song, and certainly did not hesitate to BELT ALONG with her to close out this epic encore.  🙂