Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bands You Should Know: Cayucas

By Justin Cates

This group came to my attention via the good taste of one Luke Sweet.

Cayucas has a happy summer vibe to their songs that makes it virtually impossible to feel down while listening.

The song "East Coast Girl" particularly leaves my head filled with images of a red convertible—driven by me of course—racing along a winding, coastline island road at maximum speed with the top down.

If you're looking to get in on the ground floor with a band, these guys are perfect. They released their first album, Bigfoot April 30 of this year and have only been releasing songs to the public since 2011.

The group consists of twins Zach and Ben Yudin (Ben plays bass), Banah Winn on keys, Casey Wojtalewicz on percussion and Christian Koons on guitar.

In addition to making pleasant tunes they've cranked out a number of quirky videos to back tracks like "Cuyucos" and "High School Lover" which you can see below.

They're also signed to a label called Secretly Canadian which makes me chuckle. Don't be ashamed Canada.

So as we ease our way into fall, here's one final grasp at the last threads of summer.


Monday, August 26, 2013

A Look Ahead: Virginia Tech vs. Alabama

By Justin Cates

Frank Beamer has made a living flying under the radar. The biggest successes he's had have come when no one expected his team to do much.

Starting with the improbable 1993 campaign that began a series of 20 consecutive bowl appearances, the Hokies have thrived on no expectations. It's when they were expected to win a big game that things often go awry—just ask Boise State, Cincinnati or Michigan.

The Hokies blew countless chances to beat Boise State at FedEx Field in 2010.

Tech has had a number of near misses in the kind of neutral site season-openers they'll participate in Saturday against No. 1 Alabama.

The last time Tech met the Crimson Tide in the 2009 opener, few people gave them a chance to win. Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams made a game of it and 'Bama won 34-24.

In the 2004 opener against No. 1 USC at FedEx Field—seriously never play there again—the Hokies were unranked and overmatched according to everyone, yet they led at halftime and were looking good until a phantom offensive pass interference call swung the momentum allowing the Trojans to edge out a 24-13 victory.

Pictured:The Hokie defense briefly confuses Reggie Bush for his Heisman Trophy.

There are other examples, but these were chosen to illustrate the opportunity the Hokies have opening the season against an outstanding opponent.

Alabama is of course the greatest thing that has ever happened to college football. They are an unstoppable force, Nick Saban is Bear Bryant reincarnate, and the Hokies are just lucky to share the field with them.

That's all well and good, but how much of a mismatch is it really?

The truth is no one really knows.

Virginia Tech is coming off its worst season in two decades and there is an entirely new offensive coaching staff in Blacksburg.

This is both good and bad. Tech's offensive woes have been well documented in recent years and a change was long overdue. The bad news is there is no immediate fix to the systemic problems that exist and now Tech has to break in a brand new scheme.

Logan Thomas and Scot Loeffler hope their good relationship produces good results.

 New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has an enormous task but he's already made significant changes. There is an incredible amount of secrecy surrounding the offense and the game plan for Alabama, so much so that a video of a closed scrimmage was almost instantly removed after being mistakenly posted by Tech's video department.

In the past, you could pretty much predict the first handful of offensive plays—in fact it was a game many fans played with a kind of masochistic relish. While it may well take most of the season for things to function smoothly, there is a refreshing unpredictability to everything.

Loeffler also quickly developed a strong relationship with quarterback Logan Thomas. The coach has raved about his intelligence and ability, he just needs it to come together on the field.

It won't be easy, the Hokies have been rocked by injuries and attrition during summer camp. The depth is razor thin at almost every position and unproven players will be tasked with stepping up and filling in.

It will be a tough season, in fact eight wins would be an impressive achievement, but it's an important transition and based on the attitudes of the players everyone is on board. The first test will come against the very best, and as they have repeatedly during the off-season. the Hokies are eager to challenge themselves.

"Sometimes you have runaway wins to start the season, you don't really find what you need to work on," Frank Beamer said during his Monday teleconference.

"Sometimes that's not as clear. But I think playing a team like Alabama, you become a better football team. And you understand what a task it is to go in there and beat Alabama."

This game will be a microcosm of the entire season. It will be an uphill battle that won't always be pretty, but it's a necessary part of improving the program.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Flaming Lips In Concert

By Justin Cates

I made a quick trip to Buffalo in mid-July for a highly anticipated live set from professional weirdos The Flaming Lips.

I enjoy their music for the surprising number of beautiful melodies often interspersed amongst 8 minute tracks of ambient noise. And that sums them up, you have to be willing to take the strange with the easily accessible.

As a strange man myself, both bits are enjoyable as I can indulge my own eccentricities while still catering to the musical needs of my more mainstream companions.

The Lips have long been known for their over-the-top stage performances featuring among other things front man and likely alien Wayne Coyne crowd surfing in an enormous plastic bubble or cradling a baby doll as pictured above.

Then there are the fantastic lights, smoke and confetti reminiscent of a New York City ticker tape parade.

Things were slightly subdued at Artpark in Lewiston, NY as they have been this entire tour. The band's most recent release The Terror represents a darker chapter in their catalog and so it's no surprise that some of the craziness has been tamped down.

But even so, "subdued" in this case meant Wayne Coyne clad in a green spacesuit perched atop a myriad of chrome spheres as umbilical cords of light emanated energy in time with the music.

It was a wonderful experience with few stones left unturned in terms of the setlist. About half of The Terror was played as the crowd was continually urged by Wayne to be happy and keep partying. 

They also dipped liberally into the back catalog with classic tracks like "Race For The Prize", "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1", "Do You Realize?" and perhaps my personal favorite, "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton".

It was uplifting and mellow and colorful and unexpected. Everything one could ask for from a show was granted in joyful abundance.

As Wayne stated a while back in a Reddit AMA, "I think like all artists and musicians, we want to know that we disturbed the comfortable and comforted the disturbed."

On this night, they certainly did. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Football Season Is Here

There's lots of content coming this week (no, seriously) but we start with something epic.

A man going by the Internet handle VTimHokie85 has been making these terrific Hollywood-style trailers for Hokie football for several years, but this one may well be the most epic.

I challenge anyone, regardless of team affiliation, to watch this and not get fired up.

I do not recommend watching it when you're halfway through a cup of coffee. The intoxicating mix of caffeine and adrenalin takes a while to leave your system.

Virginia Tech opens the season August 31st at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta against the two-time defending national champions and No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bands You Should Know: Haim

By Justin Cates

As you may have noticed recently in addition to our now trademark woeful lack of posts, I've ceased posting our somewhat popular recurring feature "Cover Tuesday's".

Essentially, I ran out of good versions of cover songs and stopped temporarily for fear of pushing mediocre content on the world–not to say that's stopped me before.

I don't really mind posting a rant that no one cares about—that puts me in company with about 15,000 other bloggers—but pushing mediocre music suddenly turns me into MTV and I WILL NOT become TRL 2.0 (unless MTV or some other network wishes to pay me an exorbitant fee, in which case I will quite quickly "sell out").

At any rate, I'm going to start posting about mildly obscure bands because there a few greater joys than discovering new music. 

To start with, I present Los Angeles rockers Haim (rhymes with lime).

The group features the Haim sisters sisters Este, Danielle and Alana along with drummer Dash Hutton.

Haim's first album Days Are Gone doesn't drop until September, but they've created plenty of buzz with their debut Forever EP released in 2012.

The songs are an interesting brand of funky, offbeat indie pop that makes for an excellent summer soundtrack.

Most articles about the band seem to try and paint them as some kind of modern take on seventies pop. I can't really comment on that specifically as apart from Zeppelin and Little Feat I've always been mortally terrified of that decade from a musical (and cultural) standpoint*.

The EP's title track, "Forever" is the catchiest cut on the record and the performance below from their appearance on Late Night with David Letterman was how I stumbled upon the group.

"The Wire" is a track from their new album that is incredibly catchy. Admittedly, the drum track is borrowed quite directly from The Eagles which does not please The Dude.

*For the sake of full disclosure, I did at one point own a Bee Gees Greatest Hits cassette and I quite enjoyed it.  


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