September is here, and the air has cooled almost imperceptibly. I’m still looking for a long summer. Yes I have been very busy lately, hence the lack of a voice here in website land.
This weekend I had so much fun it’s hard to put into words recording Aaron Ross‘ new album with him and Cody Feiler in the old church at St. Joseph’s in Grass Valley. Last night was the last of three nights recording there, and we were all banging on drums at midnight. It was some of the finishing touches on the most productive recording weekend I’ve ever been a part of. His album is so amazing, I’m listening to the roughs of it right now and it is so amazingly complex, varied, smart and moving I can’t wait for it to get out in the world.
I’m already also excited about the Mondo Cello Fest, which is coming around sooner than I’ll know I’m sure. The bottom line is that this touring show is so packed full of incredible cellists and is like, going to be the best show ever when it comes through your town… I’m going to post all the info here for your reading pleasure, and in the meantime be sure to go to the
October 15thâ€”Broadway Performance Hall Seattle, WA
October 16thâ€”Aladdin Theater Portland, OR
October 17thâ€”Slim’s San Francisco, CA
October 18thâ€”The Unknown Theater Los Angeles, CA
Melora Creager is an American cellist and singer-songwriter best known for her role as lead singer in the chamber-rock trio Rasputina Born and raised in Kansas, Creager comes from a musical family and received classical training. At 18 she moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design. While majoring in photography she began playing her cello in rock bands and became involved with drag performers. She formed “The Fingerlakes Trio,” a falsely geeky classical group that performed covers of disco hits, before joining NYC’s Ultra Vivid Scene who recorded three albums for cult British label, 4AD. It was her first exposure to the professional rock world â€” UVS opened for label mates like The Pixies, Belly and Throwing Muses. Following a tour with Nirvana as a cellist on their In Utero tour she desired to do a project of her own, and she created Rasputina.
The concept for the group came to her fully formed; the idea was written as a manifesto. Her intention was to create an electric cello choir â€” no boys or guitars allowed. Through want ads she recruited like-minded young cellists. Rasputina evolved, employing elaborate costuming, as they were unable to move about while forcibly stationary in their chairs. What began as strictly “Victorian Whites” â€” bloomers, corsets and hoopskirts, has evolved into an amalgam of historical feminine icons â€” Indian princesses, Hawaiian handmaidens and fallen medieval queens, Rasputina keeps their cultish following enthralled with intimate recitals and post-show receiving lines. Rasputina have released two albums on Columbia Records, Thanks For the Ether and How We Quit the Forest. Following a short break after the birth of Melora’s daughter Hollis, the group returned with two more studio albums on Instinct Records, Cabin Fever, and Frustration Plantation. The live CD A Radical Recital was released in 2005 on Creager’s own Filthy Bonnet Recording Co. record label.
Rasputina works as an anomaly in popular music. By ignoring fashion trends and maintaining artistic integrity coupled with musical enthusiasm, the group has thrived as time has passed. They expose passionate fans to historical tales and inspire string players to seek alternatives to the classical world.
Melora released a well regarded solo record in 2006, entitled Perplexions. One reviewer was so fond of it he wrote, “I would like to live in Melora Creager’s head, even if just for a little while.”
Oh Perilous World, the sixth full length album from chamber-rock trio Rasputina, was performed by the band’s creator cellist/lead singer Melora Creager and drummer Jonathon TeBeest with second chair Sarah Bowman contributing additional vocals. The album was released in Summer 2007 by the Filthy Bonnet Recording Co. with distribution through Ryko. Creager wrote the songs featured on Oh Perilous World over the last two years after deciding current world events were more bizarre than anything she could scrounge up from the distant past. She obsessively read daily news on the Internet, copying words, phrases and whole stories that especially intrigued her. She compiled a vast notebook of this material from which the Oh Perilous World lyrics are culled. “Champion” is mostly the translation of an Osama Bin-Laden speech; “Child Soldier” references the phenomenon of African children’s armies; “In Old Yellowcake” utilizes imagery of the destruction of Fallujah. This is coupled with the albums overall narrative of Mary Todd Lincoln as Queen of Florida, with her blimp armies having attacked Pitcairn Island, where Fletcher Christian’s son Thursday emerges as a resistance icon, before the record’s grand end and subsequent denouement. The songs were recorded primarily with cello and drums, but despite this simple palette Rasputina create a wide range of textures and affects, including what seems to be electric guitars and violins â€” but is actually cunningly played and recorded cello.
Melora Creager will be joined on these very special ‘near-solo’ performances by current second-chair cellist Daniel De Jesus.
Portland Cello Project: Independently, the intimidating 8-16 cello ensemble, The Portland Cello Project (or, PCP, as their fans affectionately call them), has had a meteoric rise in the vibrant Portland music scene. With a philosophy of collaboration and building a stronger music community, the group went from filling small clubs on word of mouth, to selling out 650+ seat halls in less than a year, and has chosen only to perform in bars, clubs and theaters where more contemporary music is found.
Cello Project performances are unique and eclectic, as likely to mix a Salt N Pepa cover with Bach as to feature orchestral support to a veritable â€œWhoâ€™s Whoâ€ list of up-and-coming and newly arrived musicians on the Portland scene. (The classically trained group has collaborated with Laura Gibson, The Builders and The Butchers, Horse Feathers, Weinland, Vagabond Opera and many, many others.)
In keeping with this philosophy and the spirit of their eclectic live performances, the group will be independently releasing an LP available nationally August 12. Featured on this recording will be collaborations with Laura Gibson, Weinland, Loch Lomond, Nick Jaina, 3 Leg Torso, a cover of Toxic in the style of Britney Spears, Manuel De Fallaâ€™s Ritual Fire Dance, andâ€¦ a few more surprises. For this run of dates the Portland Cello Project will be touring as a quartet.
Bonfire Madigan is an avant-pop, chamber-punk trailblazer. Also a configuration of combustible collaborators orbiting the songs and spit of Madigan Shive. Using her dynamic vocals and innovative, self-styled cello virtuosity Madigan ignites the Bonfire with a shebeen of soul-art-string-sounds making theBMad live show an event people travel hundreds of miles to attend. Since her performing songwriting appeared with Seattle’s first generation Riot Grrrl band, the seminal acoustic duo, Tattle Tale, to her art, advocacy and activism of today — Madigan doesn’t play for safety. As her first live album’s title declares she Plays for Change. Bonfire Madigan is a new-music composer pulling from all that inspires her to create something often called ineffable. She repaints the sonic landscape with visceral interpretations of love, life, loss, interdependence and liberation. Madigan is one of the antipoverty- procreativity, globalization generations most potent cultural figures.
… she is astounding. A fifth-generation Washingtonian, Shive brings a deep sense of history and place to the Northwest music scene, and seeing her perform is a confirmation that this region is special, and continues to produce wonders. GRANT COGSWELL â€” The Stranger Seattle, WA.
While surface comparisons abound, Bonfire Madigan is truly in a league of their own. Infusing a perfect meld of poetry and deliberate rawness, blending some of the finest musicianship to ever come out of Kill Rock Stars and the gorgeous and haunting lyrics of a master. â€” Pop Matters.
Bonfire Madigan, AKA Madigan Shive, is one of my favorite musicians of all time. She clutches her cello like a life-raft, singing in gorgeous yelps and hums. It doesnâ€™t really matter if you like the kind of music Bonfire Madigan sings, because she does it so soulfully and gracefully, you canâ€™t help but stand there openmouthed, gawking at her vocals and cello.â€” JS The Mercury Portland, OR.
Both by herself, and with the rotating ensemble of superior musicians collectively identified as â€˜Bonfire Madiganâ€™, Iâ€™ve seen her convert neophytes into true believers. It seems almost surreal that so much musical might can emanate from such a diminutive frame. My conjecture was that she must be constructed entirely of talent. The pure. â€” Brandon Lieberman â€œDrinking From Puddlesâ€ KBOO-FM Portland, OR.
San Francisco – The howls of a wounded cello and the voice of a tormented angel suffuse the blood-soaked tragedy on the American Conservatory Theater’s stage. Above all – literally, seated high amid the massive organ pipes of Walt Spangler’s industrial-baroque cathedral set – composer, cellist and vocalist Bonfire Madigan Shive is an electrifying one-woman heavenly choir. – San Francisco Chronicle 6/13/08
Madigan Shive is the Bruce Springsteen of chamber punk. â€” SF Bay Guardian.
Los Angeles –
Singer-composer-vocalist Madigan Shive is Bessie Smith reincarnated as a punk rock cellist, as progressive and liberal as they come. Her powerful voice conveys irresistible emotion and her music creates a new language that is as ancient as the oldest Indian medicine woman and as modern as intergalactic space travel. â€” Tricia Halloran, “Brave New World” KCRW-FM Santa Monica, CA.
Check in with her. Sheâ€™ll leave you spellbound. â€” LA Weekly.
Lindsay Mac: Classically trained cellist and singer-songwriter Lindsay Mac offers a fresh look at acoustic music by combining folk/pop structure with plucked and bowed cello. Wonderfully diverse and memorable, her music has roots in jazz, folk, Americana, funk and rock while not tasting like any specific genre.
Lindsay has opened for KD Lang at Bostons Bank of America Pavilion, “folk godess” Catie Curtis at Pittsburgh’s South Park Amphitheater and Daemon Records’ group Girlyman. She made her ‘cover girl’ debut, donning the cover of Strings Magazine in its February 2006 issue.
Lindsay is now touring nationally in support of her debut album, Small Revolution – aptly named as Mac straps her cello to her body in order to play and sing on stage. Contributing their thoughtful and unique voices to the album are two-time Grammy-winning cellist, Eugene Friesen, famous fiddler, Matt Glaser (Rounder Records The Wayfaring Strangers), and pianist Tim Ray (Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Jane Siberry).
Born and raised by hard-working, party-hungry, bohemian parents in Iowa, Lindsay was fed pork tenderloin and Midwestern microbrews for breakfast (this accounts for her wholesome good looks and generally bad breath). Lindsay then set out to receive her training at The Royal College of Music in London, The San Francisco Conservatory and Berklee College of Music in Boston before eventually trading her seat in the symphony for the vagabond life of a touring singer/songwriter. Playing over 100 shows per year in the US and Canada, Mac is revolutionizing the way we think about the cello while also expanding the definition of what we know the folk/singer-songwriter genre to be.
MERCH is the performing and recording moniker of bandleader/songwriter/vocalist Joe Medina (the founder and organizer of the Mondo Cello Fest) and whatever musicians happen to be playing with him at any given time. The resultant sound is loosely categorized as “cello-rock”, only there are also banjos, guitars, drums, keyboards, bells, fiddles, and many other mysterious sounds involved.
The project was started in 2005 with the dissolving of Independent Musician magazine, a publication Joe was the head writer for. Having interviewed several iconic musicians in the indie-rock world notably John Vanderslice (his first interview and a generous go-to-guy for sage advice during Merch’s earliest exploits), Spoon, Guided By Voices, and onâ€”Joe had the crazy notion that he just might be able to ‘do it at least as well as some of those guys’. Having played music since he was nine, by Merch’s first show it was clear that this notion wasn’t as far-fetched as it sounded to some at the time. Another concept that was questioned initially was the use of cello as a lead instrument in the group. Having no frame of reference for how this could be done, Joe enlisted the first cellist who said yes, wrote down the parts down that he heard in his head, attached a contact mic running through a Heavy Metal distortion box, and created a viscerally thrilling yet unpredictable (at the time all you could hear from the cello’s amplifier was uncontrolled feedback with be-bop inspired lines swirling underneath the chaos) set of ultra-catchy rock songs that pulled from everything from gypsy-jazz (all the guitar chords in Merch songs are based on the Django Reinhardt jazz voicings that Joe started on many years ago) to girl-group style backing-vocal hooks, even a little bluegrass and art-punk like Flipper. The shows eventually grew less disheveled as Joe learned more about how to properly amplify a cello through friendships made with some of the greatest electric cellists around. It never became less unpredictable though. After several line-up changes, each one a wild story of it’s own (including an infamous onstage firing), the project has now taken on a more open-door policy for touring membersâ€”with Joe playing nearly all instruments on the recordings The name MERCH is a commentary on consumerism and the ever-increasing notion of art, music, and culture as being disposable commodities.
Joe Medina just returned from a national tour supporting MERCH’s first full-length album Crash Boom Bash. During this tour, he logged nearly 9,000 miles in a van converted to run off of used veggie-oil. In keeping with the DIY damn-the-man ethos behind the project, the packaging for Crash Boom Bash was printed on all-recycled materials using soy inks. The album is slowly but surely making it into all the independent record stores across the country as Joe makes his weekly trips to the post office when he isn’t on the road. The much-lauded cello playing on Crash Boom Bash (as well as everything but the drums) was recorded by Joeâ€”having only played cello for 30 days. The story is that Merch’s cellist at the time had a nervous breakdown on the road a few days before they were to play The Roxy in Los Angeles. The rest of the tour had to be cancelled, but recording time was booked to lay down the tracks for what was to become the all-important first album. So, in lieu of finding another cello player to play the parts that he wrote, Joe rented a cello and practiced the parts 8 hours a night for a month. He then recorded the songs in order of easiest to hardest, beginning with the two-chord punk of ‘What Business Of It Is Yours’ and ending with the cello-and-vocal hauntingly propulsive Americana of ‘Long Steel Rail’ (complete with a lovely cello solo recorded in one take). For the Mondo Cello Fest tour, MERCH will be augmented by special guest cellist Matthew Schoening.
Luke Janela is a cellist, guitarist and singer and songwriter who plays distinctive, emotive music rooted in the tradition of innovative rock that combines aspects of classical and electronica. He currently hails from the woods of Northern California.
Lukeâ€™s innovative use of the cello yields fascinating results. As opposed to using the instrument to create soft harmonies or classical embellishments, he puts the cello in front of the sound, played in a way that is rare: raw, intuitive, and creative. His technique is solid, and it is clear that the instrument is not a gimmick. By also immersing himself in electronic beats and the art of recording, he combines his guitar, cello, vocals and beats into a truly distinct sound.
In July 2007, Luke released his eighth full length â€œMidnight Doorâ€. The accumulation of two years of work and travel, the album is a mixture of many influences, ranging from classical, to pop, to rock, to electronica. In writing songs while on the road, he imparts a sense of motion, from the swirl of urban to the dark unknown of the desolate. The album plays like a soundtrack to a life changing road trip.
Luke Janela lived in Portland, OR for several years and developed a following there after playing nearly every major venue. He has recorded regularly with bands and songwriters, and has toured the west coast as a solo artist and in different bands. He has played cello and guitar for 18 years and earned a Bachelors Degree in Music from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with an emphasis ..o performance and technique, as well as music history and theory.
Midnight Door is Luke Janelaâ€™s finest work to date. It is an accomplished, smart album full of genuine revelation and innovation. â€œLuke Janelaâ€¦ writes amazing music. His voice is rich and honest, glimmering with harmonies, and buoyed by beats and the shivering pull of the cello.”â€”Portland Mercury