Madi Diaz, Harper Blynn

Madi Diaz (8:30 PM)

Harper Blynn (9:30 PM)

Sun, July 1, 2012

8:00 pm

adv tix $12.00 / day of show tix $14.00

This event is all ages

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Madi Diaz - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Madi Diaz
"One of my favorite feelings is the sense I get from pouring over parts of my past before lighting them up and leaving it all behind me to start over again." -- Madi Diaz

In 2013, Madi Diaz packed up her Nashville home and drove across the country to L.A. "It took five days to drive to Los Angeles by myself. I listened to 'Abbey Road' for six hours at a time, and watched the desert open up before me again and again. I saw the sun set and rise at the Grand Canyon, and I sang out over the cliffs, picked up tumbleweeds along the way and threw them in the back of my car. When I got the Pacific, I just ran straight into ocean."

After much time on the endless road, three tiny apartments, and one big heartbreak, she buckled down in LA, pushing for something true to herself and who she wanted to be. The result is "Phantom," an open-faced and undeniably honest chronicle of falling down, getting back up, and heading to the horizon.

The songs on "Phantom" expand upon Madi's brand of sophisticated indie pop, taking on grungy, pulsating bass lines that open up to shimmering, expansive chords, punchy drum beats and unfettered vocal swagger. "It's very visceral," Madi says of the album, "it's about a person looking at herself every day and getting lost in the other side of the mirror." "Phantom" was recorded in Madi's newly adopted home of Los Angeles, produced by Nick Ruth (Mikky Ekko, Active Child) and mixed by John O'Mahony (Coldplay, Metric, Oh Land) at NYC's famed Electric Lady Studios.

"Stay Together" is a fist-pumping anthem of honesty, punctuated by Madi's soaring vocals that pierce through the up-tempo beats. Madi calls it "a great big trust fall." The album traverses moods, from the energetic bursts of "First Time" to the downbeat and breezy track "Ghost Rider." But the album's sound is unified and direct; the lead track "Tomorrow" sets the pace, propelled by pulsing beats, meandering melodies and subtle synths, while Diaz's voice weaves in between the danceable rhythms. "I wanted to look at our wreckage one last time, and then move on," she says of the song. On the sonically textured "Wide," Madi says "it shows that I am strong enough to let all of this go and keep on trying."

Underneath the effervescent pop, Madi's lyrics reveal an emotional through line. "The record tells an arcing story that begins with a sweet naive love, then things get hard, and then comes a big slap in the face," she laughs. "It starts nostalgic and resolves itself in this understanding of wider truth... this exhausted, relaxed goodness and reflection."

Madi's own story begins in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley, where she grew up home-schooled by post-hippie parents. "It was totally backwoods," she says, "with cornfields, horses and buggies, where we had more Amish people going down the streets than cars." Her home was filled with music. Her father and mother both have wide arms and colorful palates, and supplemented her education with a steady stream of classic rock, metal, r&b, pop and prog. The inspiration stuck with Madi, who left small town life behind for Boston's esteemed Berklee College of Music. There, she began to shape her sound with songwriter Kyle Ryan, where her powerful voice intermixed with Americana undertones. Next she moved to Nashville, self-releasing her first album "Plastic Moon" in 2012, and beginning to explore her music's cinematic feel.

Now with Madi's Nettwerk debut "Phantom," her songs dive deeper and fly higher, providing a soundtrack for adventurous escapades on sweaty dance floors with old friends or late night introspective drives under a canopy of stars. As she takes to the road again this summer, Madi is poised to unleash her powerful songs and chase whatever the future may hold. "I can never sit still," she says "I wanna hurl myself into life. These songs tell a story about lighting flames and letting every part of the last fire burn out. Don't turn around and don't look back. Look forward."
Harper Blynn - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Harper Blynn
Philadelphia, 11:47 AM: The members of Harper Blynn find themselves in an unusual situation. Standing on the sidewalk outside the Philadelphia Academy of Music, they watch as a cadre of beefy union guys unload the band’s equipment out of the Dodge Sprinter van they call home for most of the year. As their gear rolls into the venue without them, the members sip coffee, provide a running commentary on lunchtime passersby while taking in the grandeur of the building in which they will be performing that night.

After logging over 150 shows since the release of an eponymously titled EP in 2010, Harper Blynn welcome the break. Buzzing from the news of being handpicked by indie queen Ingrid Michaelson to open up a healthy chunk of dates on her spring tour, the band has spent the previous two weeks doing a run of shows up and down the East Coast while approving the latest mixes of their new full-length, Busy Hands. The Michaelson tour is the latest in a series of accolades that would seem to indicate that Harper Blynn, a unit accustomed to the rigors of managing, booking, financing and transporting themselves, might finally be on the verge of graduating from the DIY lifestyle.

Busy Hands is a worthy chronicle of the transition. Co-produced with Irish wunderkind John O’Mahony (Metric, Coldplay), the album effectively captures the sensation of hurtling towards a precipice of sorts, that fantastic moment when feet leave the ground and wings take over for the first time. Songwriters J.Blynn (vocals/ guitar) and Pete Harper (vocals/keyboards) accurately portray the limitations of long- distance relationships (“In Another Life”), infatuation and lust (“Falling In Love”), betrayal (“Knife”) and bleary-eyed existential crisis (“High End Melody”). That said, Harper and Blynn never wallow in their sorrows; these songs are about finding a way out. Unlike most 21st century songwriter fare, they have an eye on the sky, a belief that transcendence is possible.

As good as the two front men’s contributions are, the heartbeat of the band is its rhythm section. Bassist Whynot Jansveld and drummer Sarab Singh inject these songs with an immediacy that grounds their songwriters’ soaring melodies and stylistic eccentricities. Jansveld and Singh have also played a major part in providing the band with a time-tested outlet for exposure: backing up other artists. Like The Band before them, Harper Blynn has toured as a back-up outfit for an eclectic roster of independent artists such as David Mead, Elizabeth and the Catapult, The Damnwells, Cary Brothers and Greg Laswell. The band’s off-the-charts vocal abilities and instrumental prowess have made them into a unit capable of propelling these artists’ shows to dizzying heights.

The band happily agrees that this experience has had a major effect on the dynamic of their own performances. It is not surprising to find out that the most often asked question after a Harper Blynn gig is, “How do you guys make all of that noise?” In an era in which bands can often be heard playing along to pre-recorded tracks, Harper Blynn manages to create a jaw-dropping wall of sound onstage with no artificial assistance whatsoever. Singh’s polyrhythmic style often achieves the effect of three drummers playing at once, while Jansveld manages to generate multiple octaves from his instrument, sometimes tricking the audience into thinking an extra player must be hidden offstage. The interplay between Harper’s keyboard melodies and Blynn’s guitar soundscapes is reminiscent of Death Cab For Cutie, and the pristine wash of three-part harmonies that floats through much of the music recalls Grizzly Bear at its best, or perhaps a disembodied choir hovering in the ether above a very large performance hall.

The sky above the Academy of Music is darkening as the first drops of an oncoming storm splatter onto the sidewalks of Philadelphia. The union stiffs have made short work of the band’s equipment, but offer no help with one major component of gigging in a major city: parking. Having enjoyed their brief flirtation with the high life, the band piles back into the Sprinter. Harper Blynn pulls out of the loading zone and is quickly sucked into a swirl of metropolitan traffic, just another band getting it done the hard way, if only for a little while longer.
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change