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A Musical Mismatch: The Quad City Symphony Orchestra, February 9 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Friday, 15 February 2013 13:12

Five by Design

We do silly things for love. This must be one of them.

In what Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith termed a “fun experiment” at his February 7 “Inside the Music” lecture, the Quad City Symphony, for its “Valentine’s Day” Masterworks concerts, replaced classical-music repertoire for half of the program with tunes from the 1940s sung by a five-member swing group. Last year, we got Scheherazade; this year, we got the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

The orchestra was the opening act, performing Berlioz’s arrangement of Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz” from Swan Lake. During the second half, the orchestra served as backup band for vocal group Five by Design, which performed a variety of old-time pop selections including, among others, “Night & Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “The Trolley Song,” “Mairzy Doats,” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

I enjoy all kinds of music, and symphony orchestras have long attempted to attract new audiences by blending popular and classical music in their Pops concerts. Simply put, the swing music on the February program belonged in a Pops concert, and it diminished the Quad City Symphony's Masterworks series – whose traditional forms and repertoire are my balms against the temporal superficiality of what Mahler called “a garish world.”

The musical mismatch in conception was exacerbated in the February 9 Adler Theatre concert by the artistic disparity between the orchestra and vocal group, both in technical execution and ability to evoke an emotional response. Even judged only in its genre, Five by Design could not match the performance standard of the orchestra.

 
The Art of Sturdy Songs: Dan Hubbard & the Humadors, February 8 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 31 January 2013 05:53

Dan Hubbard & the Humadors

The Web-site bio of Dan Hubbard & the Humadors says the band builds its music on “the classic sounds of Tom Petty, Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Jackson Browne.” That’s a pretty common set of influences, and one that has produced plenty of earnest but dull music in the hands of less-skilled singers/songwriters.

But with Hubbard and his band – playing their first headlining gig in the Quad Cities on February 8 at Rozz-Tox – those forebears mostly hint at an unpretentious, straightforward, gimmick-free, and song-based style. And when the hooks are plentiful and the arrangements are thoughtful and performed with vigor – as they usually are – the guys pull it off.

 
Ride It ’Til the Wheels Fall Off: Nikki Hill, January 26 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 16:58

Nikki HillBased on her vocal confidence and itinerary, it’s hard to believe that Nikki Hill is by her own admission a neophyte on the music scene.

She began singing in the church choir in her native North Carolina when she was six or seven, but her tenure as a performing and touring rock-and-roll artist is considerably shorter – basically less than a year. Yet she co-produced and released her self-titled debut EP last year on her own label, she’s planning a spring release of some sort, and this spring and summer she’ll be playing in Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Spain. On Saturday, she’ll be performing at RIBCO, and while you might not have heard of Hill, she’s doing her damnedest to change that.

“I’m kind of in that ride-it-’til-the-wheels-fall-off mode,” the 28-year-old said in a phone interview last week.

 
Drawing Hope from a Shot in the Dark: A Benefit for Rob Cimmarusti, January 11 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 03 January 2013 13:25

Rob Cimmarusti working on an audio-equipment installation at Progressive Baptist Church in Davenport on January 4, 2013.

Rob Cimmarusti calls it a “malady” – a gentle label for the cancer he’s been told will kill him in the next few months.

But that term is a fair reflection of the attitude the longtime Quad Cities musician, producer, and sound engineer has about the adenocarcinoma that began in his pancreas and has since popped up in the fatty tissue near his abdominal wall. He received his initial cancer diagnosis on February 1 (his 53rd birthday) and has been through chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and surgeries. In an interview last week, he compared the present state of his tumors to a “shotgun blast”; there are too many of them to target with additional surgery or radiation, and because they’re in tissues that get relatively little blood, they don’t respond well to chemo.

Cimmarusti conceded that his situation is “not good, not hopeful.” A few months ago, he said, a doctor in Iowa City told him: “Get your affairs in order. It’s going to be a matter of months.” His response was to fight: “We’re like, ‘Well, we’re not going to take that.’”

 
An Album for the End of the World: Twenty Favorite Songs from 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 05:56

For the seventh year, I’ve compiled a selection of favorite songs from the past year and sequenced them into an album – something that can fit on an 80-minute CD, with no artists repeated from previous years and a limit of one song per artist.

This year’s edition features 20 tracks and is notably heavier and louder than any of the past six. Read nothing more into that than the possibility that my hearing is likely deteriorating now that I’m north of 40. (And don’t infer anything from the inclusion of two Swedish bands and another from Denmark, or my apparent weakness for the second songs of albums.)

Beyond the surface aggression, I’m imposing on my 2012 album an air of finality, both aesthetically and thematically. Whether it’s the violence promised and delivered by the Hives or the natural calamity of Alexandre Desplat or the seasonal metaphor of Max Richter or the self-loathing regret of Cloud Nothings or the ominous instrumental clouds of Goat, this sounds a bit like the world is ending. I’m pretty sure the planet as we know it will be here on December 22, but here’s a soundtrack for December 21 just in case some interpretations of the Mayan calendar prove correct.

The Hives, “My Time Is Coming.” There’s always been a threatening edge to the punkish garage rock of the Hives, but it’s always been obliterated by cheekiness, matching outfits, and a bright bluster that made it impossible to take anything at all seriously. Here, the title and chorus are far from earnest, but both the music and vocals carry something darker – not of getting one’s due but of seizing out of desperation and deprivation (“You see I grew up in a hole / Squeezing diamonds out of coal”). The reverb-heavy guitar and the quiet opening before detonation represent minor aesthetic developments for the Swedes, but the biggest change is how they tap into a rage that for once feels authentic.

 
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