Carbon Leaf’s 25th Anniversary

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Richmond, VA-based band, Carbon Leaf, and they’re celebrating it on the road.  As often happens when Carbon Leaf comes to town, I found myself there.  And it’s not just because of the photos and review, but because I really love the experience.  But I’ll come back to that later.

Scott Mulvahill: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | iTunes | Spotify

For this first stretch of the tour, the band were joined by solo upright bassist, Scott Mulvahill.  Mulvahill, who made a name for himself by spending five years playing alongside Ricky Skaggs in the Grammy-winning band Kentucky Thunder, caused me to raise an eyebrow when I first saw him emerge onstage.  “How,” I thought to myself, “can a solo bass player entertain a roomful of people for half an hour?”  I have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth, and by the end of his set I was standing in line at the back of the room, now singing a melody to the tune of “take my money” for his EP, Top Of The Stairs.

Scott has a voice like velvet and can pluck, slap, and bow a bass like nobody’s business.  But it was in his down-to-earth attitude and affability that he won over the crowd.  “As you may have noticed,” he began, “I’m a solo bass player.  I could really use some clapping for this next song, but if you stop…at any point… it will be extremely awkward for your lone bass player.”  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bass player, all alone, get cheered so loudly.


Carbon Leaf: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | iTunes | Spotify

As I was saying, I really love the experience!  Carbon Leaf doesn’t just put on concerts; they throw family gatherings.  They bring a storied history with them, like a family often does, with inside jokes and traditions that they have built with their fanbase over time.  If you’ve attended any of their shows in the last five years or so, or you’ve read my previous reviews, you’ll be well aware of the one-mic portion of the show.  The band gathers around a single microphone, acoustic instruments at the ready, and the audience hushes to a whisper…or as much as alcohol will allow.  But sometimes one tradition finds its way into another, such as when the jovial holiday tradition of “Carter’s Christmas Beard,” a little ditty sung by bassist Jon Markel as an ode to guitarist Carter Gravatt’s winter solstice shavelessness, makes its way into the air – cutting off the intro to another song.  The laughter that results doesn’t make sense to anyone but family.

And that togetherness goes hand-in-hand with their upcoming album, Gathering Vol. 1 (out June 1st), which we were privileged to hear most of that night.  The album is said to be about community, and the two tracks which opened the show, “Come Sunday Morn” and “Bow & Arrow,” certainly brought the audience together quickly.  The band were as full of energy as the first time I saw them, nearly a decade ago.  And while the evening soon turned into a Maryland turf war over who could spoil the band the most with drinks, leaving guitarist Terry Clark merely uttering “Oh no!” as more rounds appeared on stage, and vocalist Barry Privett warning, “this will not go how you think it’s going to go,” it was a wonderful time for all in attendance.  At the end of the show, closing out with another one of the new tunes, “Gift From The Crows,” the band members all filed out and sat down at a table to greet anyone and everyone who wanted a moment of their time, a picture, and an autograph.  They stayed until the venue started kicking people out, and lingered even then to hear another fan’s long-awaited confession about what their music meant to them.

They’re good people, and you won’t regret it if you take time to see them live this year.  They’ll be around.

Queensrÿche at Baltimore Soundstage

Better B# - TAM Logo 2

15 years ago, by accident, I stumbled upon a copy of Queensrÿche’s Greatest Hits album.  Enticed by their logo, I took a chance on their music.  To say I was blown away would be a vast understatement.  The heaviness, the melodies, and the twin-guitar harmonies were enough to win over my ears.  With each album I bought, my appreciation grew deeper and fandom stronger.  Queensrÿche has long been one of my favorite bands, despite line-up changes, but I had never been to a show until last Saturday night, Dec. 3, 2016, when the band came to play the Baltimore Soundstage, along with Armored Saint and Midnight Eternal.  Not only did I have the pleasure of attending the show, but I had the honor of doing photography for Target Audience Magazine in the process!

Midnight Eternal: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram

The opening act for the night was NYC-based symphonic metal band, Midnight Eternal.  Fronted by the very talented Raine Hilai, whose vocal range is quite wowing, and backed by a formidable band, the group received wide-ranging applause after every song.  Guitar theatrics from Richard Fischer, thick bass lines from Greg Manning, and powerful drumming from Dan Prestup helped to warm up the crowd, who had hurried in out of the chilly Baltimore night to see this show.

Armored Saint
: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

80s heavy metal veterans, Armored Saint, were up next.  I must confess, barring listening to one song by this band and the previous one, I had never heard any of their music.  As a man without expectations, I was impressed!  The sheer immensity of energy radiating from these individuals was quite quickly felt throughout the entire room.  If anyone had murmured a word about wanting to skip straight to the headlining act, that thought was squashed by song-after-song of high-intensity aggression.  Frontman John Bush was on fire from start to finish, and both guitarists, Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval, brought the attack to the crowd.  Bassist Joey Vera was a man of many faces, and one of my great defeats of the night was being unable to keep up with these exploits as I shot the show.  Last, but not least, drummer Gonzo Sandoval was solid behind the kit, and looked to be having as much fun as the audience!

One worrisome moment occurred when Bush stepped forward onto a stage monitor, but that monitor wasn’t exactly on the stage.  Due to limited space, the monitors had been set upon rolling crates in front of the stage, resulting in Bush crashing down into the photo pit.  With some quick reflexes he caught himself on the crate, preventing himself from meeting the floor.  Security was quick to come to his aid.  To everyone’s amazement, he barely missed a beat; continuing to sing throughout the fall as though nothing had happened.  He received quite a huge applause at the end of that song, and he commented, “No show is like another!  One show we play these songs, another we play that, and tonight you got to see the lead singer fall on his face.”  I’ll definitely be looking into this band more intensely now.

: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram | Google+

I could hardly wait for Queensrÿche to take the stage.  Armored Saint was positively thrilling, but I’d been waiting 15 years for this concert.  They unleashed the photographers shortly before the band came on, giving me time to snap a shot of the setlist and geek out a little at knowing what the concert would hold for us before anyone else.  The first three songs, the ones I would get to shoot, were “Guardian,” “Operation: Mindcrime,” and “Best I Can.”  The lights on their LED board glowed with an introduction of the band, and drummer Scott Rockenfield banged out a forceful musical accompaniment.  His headlamp illuminated his sticks and drumheads as he went.  The crowd’s cheers grew as other members of the band took their positions onstage, before launching into the opening track.  Singer Todd La Torre ran past me in his studded leather jacket to command things from the front of the stage.

Before I knew it, the first three songs were over.  I was perhaps a little too caught up with having my musical heroes within a few feet of me to really keep track of the time [but not too caught up to miss snapping what I hope are images that you will enjoy viewing].  The rest of the show was for me to watch from stage right, enjoying how they pulled such a diverse collection of songs from their back catalog.  There was quite an even number of tracks from their first six albums (that’s all the way up to Promised Land), and even a few from this incarnation’s latest release as well.  I was overjoyed that they played “Eye9,” one of my favorite tunes from the new album, Condition Hüman, featuring hefty bass lines from Eddie Jackson.  Guitarists Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren were in top form as well, sharing lead guitar duties and melting them together in the classic Queensrÿche fashion.  The evening closed out with the final Mindcrime track, “Eyes Of A Stranger,” which left everyone in the audience begging for more as the band tossed guitar picks and drum sticks into the crowd and bid them adieu.

For those that endured the weather outside after the show (like I did, for an hour and a half), they were treated to some kind smiles from the frigid band members.  15 years of feelings welling up inside me, I should have known it wouldn’t be possible to convey myself as well as I’d have liked.  For that, I would have needed to invest in one of the VIP tickets.  But I managed to shake hands with Michael and Eddie, and tell them how excited I was to be experiencing one of my favorite bands for the first time.  That was it.  I didn’t have anything for them to sign.  I didn’t ask for anyone to take my picture with them.  I just thanked them and walked home.  And you know what?  Thank you, Queensrÿche.  It was a damn good show.