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Charger Bulletin staff conquers Comic Con

by Scott Iwaniec | August 27, 2014

This summer The Charger Bulletin traveled to Comic Con at the XL Center in Hartford on Saturday, May 31. I was fortunate enough to be one of the staff members who tagged along.

Liana Teixeira, Samantha Mathewson and Elissa Sanci at Comic Con (Charger Bulletin Photo)

Liana Teixeira, Samantha Mathewson and Elissa Sanci at Comic Con (Charger Bulletin Photo)

The Bat mobile, artists from various Marvel/DC comics, and even the Soup Master from Seinfeld were only some of the many attractions featured at Comic Con.

The highlight of the day really came from an artist/writer named Jon Howard, who publishes his own work. I talked with him about the relationship between movies and comics and how they may not be quite like you would think. We tend to believe that changes in the comics affect the films, and reasonably so, since the films are based on the stories in these comics.
But here’s the new perspective Howard offered me: the mainstream public doesn’t read comics anymore, but they love the movies. Today, films are the dominant medium for superheroes. Because of this, comic book sales are struggling, and are actually influenced by the films in order to attract an audience.

A basic example of this would be when Nick Fury in the comics was abruptly changed to an African American with a goatee to look like Samuel L. Jackson.

But the most fascinating part comes from the subliminal messages. As we know, the Marvel film rights belong to three different studios: Sony (Spiderman), Fox (X-Men/Fantastic 4) and Disney. Disney’s ultimate goal is to buy the rights they do not have, but cannot do so because the properties are too successful to be up for sale.

Instead, Disney uses their ownership of the comics to their advantage. See if you can spot a pattern: since 2012, Cyclopes and select X-Men have become primary villains.

In 2013 Peter Parker was killed. Just months ago, Marvel comics announced they will discontinue the Fantastic 4 series.

The comics try to deprogram readers of the non-Disney properties, in effort to prevent people from seeing the films, especially around the dawn of the premiers. If they succeed, the rival studios lose money, and Disney gets rights back.

Comic book vendors set up tents around the XL Center (Charger Bulletin Photo)

Comic book vendors set up tents around the XL Center (Charger Bulletin Photo)

This also works for the other end of the spectrum. In the comics, Ironman joined the Guardians of the Galaxy, possibly to bring attention to the film which just came out.
What Howard told me about the film/comics industry was just fascinating and changed my perspective on superhero movies.

Other events of the day included various panels and workshops, autograph signings, and many tables where artists displayed and sold memorabilia dating back to some of the first, which are now antique, comic books. Guests dressed up as their favorite characters ranging from super heroes, to villains, to TV characters, and even Disney princesses.

UNH Marching Band Ready for a Super Season

by Ashley Winward | August 27, 2014

The University of New Haven Charger Marching Band just finished a grueling week in the sun preparing for their Fall 2014 season and their show entitled “Steel,” centered around Superman as portrayed in music.

A Charger Marching Band summer practice  (Photo provided by Ashley Winward / Charger Bulletin Photo)

A Charger Marching Band summer practice
(Photo provided by Ashley Winward / Charger Bulletin Photo)

The show will feature Five For Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” Three Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” and Daughtry’s “Waiting For Superman.”

With the band growing in both numbers and talent over the past five years, it is looking to be the best show the fans have seen at Dellacamera Stadium this fall.

Steel was actually an idea brought up by trombone section leader Stephen Shepherd last year, then developed by band director Jason Degroff and Keith Rego.

“I was a little hesitant going into the 2014 marching season with this specific show. I had the initial idea to do this sort of show this past winter, when I heard Daughtry’s “Waiting for Superman” on the radio, and wondered how cool that would be to translate it to the field,” said Shepherd. “I was surprised that I got such an exceedingly positive reaction from Jason when I first emailed him my whole idea, and I was even more taken aback that virtually every band member or fan liked the concept as well.”

Shepherd added that going through band camp and seeing how much the band members like the show is “truly very humbling” and makes him even more excited to see this entire show come to fruition.

With such a knowledgeable staff directing the band, it was no surprise the concept came together so smoothly. Under the direction of Degroff, drum caption head Omi Batan, Color Guard Caption Head Eric Babula and the numerous techs, student teachers and graduate assistants the band staff has nearly a dozen Drum Corps International titles under various groups in the DCI circuit.

Sophomore saxophone Mary Perucci was grateful for the staffs experience and work ethic. “The new staff is making a positive change in the mentality and overall moral of the band,” she said. “Sometimes there are situations that can become frustrating and it is really nice to have staff members who can keep their cool and help us push through and still accomplish what needs to be done.”

The talent doesn’t stop at the staff; the students joining have come with their own super powers as well. The band as a whole is now comprised of about five percent of the UNH student body, representing almost every major on campus. In five years, the band has grown 11 times larger, starting with 20 members and expanding to well over 200 now, making the UNH marching program one of the fastest growing programs in the country.

Experience ranges from drum corps champions to those marching for the first time. The group is a very inclusive bunch, helping each other along the way.

“It’s really overwhelming how large the band is now, and also how large my section is now,” Shepherd said. “This is my first season as a full-fledged section leader in college, and to lead a group of 12 musicians total is exhilarating. I learn just as much from my rank leader and section members as they do from me, if not more, and I think that’s a true testament to how great this band really is.”

While most members come in on their primary instrument, others take the challenge of learning new instruments and trying new things.

Sophomore Marissa Fujimoto is beginning her first season in the pit ensemble, and described her transition from Color Guard to Pit as a “new and exciting experience.”

Band camp itself is a week-long event every year, with 12-hour days, which include working on both the music and marching the show drill.

Afternoon blocks in the hot sun can be hard and staying healthy is imperative to keeping the entire production running.

Regardless of the mental and physical commitment, the members of the UNH marching band look forward to it every year. Chris Jenis, sophomore saxophone remembers his first band camp at UNH but looks forward to what’s to come.

“Well, I enjoyed this year’s band camp way more than last year because I am now a sophomore and knew everyone going in to camp,” Jenis said. “This year’s camp is something I looked forward to since the end of last year and it didn’t disappoint. I hope that this year can be even better than last year and judging by camp it will be.”

Band director Jason Degroff was also pleased with the band’s results in only one short week of coming together.

“The University of New Haven Band Camp was one I will never forget! In over 200 days of camps I have done, this one contained my best day ever and my most fun day ever!” said Degroff. “The band members not only worked hard, they worked smart. This addition to the Charger Marching Band will be one for the ages. Everyone will be proud of the way the Marching Band represents the UNH community. The support had been tremendous and we couldn’t do what we do without it.”

The band will be debuting Steel at the first home game against Westchester Sept. 6, but you can get a sneak peak during rehearsals from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays at Dellacamera.

If you’re interested, they’re still looking for any musicians interested in joining. Any questions can be answered by Jason Degroff or the staff at marchingband@newhaven.edu.

Livewell’s Latest

by Shannon Livewell | August 27, 2014

Chemistry On & Off Stage; Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt

Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt, two extremely talented individuals from Austin, Texas, are now becoming one as they form a partnership and release their first album together, For Keeps. The release is coinciding with their wedding in October of this year, so the pair has a busy next couple of months! Playing for Keeps is exactly what this talented duo has decided upon with their music and their relationship off stage and out of the recording studio.

Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt (carrieelkin.com)

Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt (carrieelkin.com)

After getting the chance to (virtually) speak with both of them regarding their latest album, it was easy to see that their uncanny chemistry and quirkiness rings true both on and off the record. The two began touring together in 2012, and their spellbinding personalities and music has come in through the ears and settled in the hearts of music lovers everywhere.

“Kiss Me Now” is my favorite song from Carrie & Danny, and I came to late find out that this is Schmidt’s proposal song to Elkin at last year’s SXSW Music Festival. It is impossible to not love these two for their music, their passion, and their love story that they share with all of us through carefully constructed songs.

My first question for the couple was what made them venture into this joint project after their long history of solo careers with Red House Records.

“It grew pretty organically out of the path our touring lives had taken,” Schmidt explained. “When we were always touring solo, it got to where we were never seeing each other, and so we made the decision to try and tour more together. We didn’t want to merge ourselves artistically, and play as a full on “duo”…‘cause our writing voices are so distinct from one another. But we wanted to be together more. So we decided to just song swap every night, and pass the guitar back and forth, and sing with each other. The record is exactly that same format. We just selected songs that we thought intertwined nicely with each other, and around a theme of relationship.”

The album is exactly that. An intertwining of the two unique styles that Carrie & Danny encompass. Each song is almost like a conversation between the two, as if you are a fly on the wall in their kitchen on a Sunday morning while they’re making waffles. You get a front row seat to their separate lives merging into one. With relationship songs today revolving around fear of commitment, meeting in bars, and ending in break ups, it is so refreshing to have an entire album making a statement to prove that love not only exists but also lasts, regardless of the pressures that time and life bring.

When I originally heard the album title, I immediately thought of the saying “playing for keeps,” and I had to ask if this would be the first to many joint projects from the two.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” said Schmidt.  “We haven’t planned that either way. Honestly, we haven’t talked about it! The title stemmed from that feeling you have, as a relationship matures and deepens, that the stakes get higher and more significant. A lot of the songs on the record were written in times when we were processing the deepening of our own relationship, and pondering big things like makin’ babies and building a home together and coming to union with another person while maintaining your own individual identity. The songs aren’t necessarily about our lives…but those were the big themes in our lives while we were writing, and so those are the big themes that crept into the songs.”

It is impossible not to relate to these two, especially as they speak more about the passion and drive behind each of the tracks on their new album. Who doesn’t fear change a little? Relationships can be scary, especially when the stakes get higher and the love deepens. Carrie & Danny have written an informal manual to blast through your car speakers when you can’t quite put into words what plagues all of us at one point or another. They’ve covered all of the questions that float through the timeline of a relationship.

“For me, it’s an evolving process,” Schmidt responded when I inquired about his songwriting process and his biggest inspirations. “There’s definitely a strong handful of folks who I can distinctly identify as influences, which is different from inspirations, I know. But I would list Mississippi John Hurt, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom House, and Townes Van Zandt as folks who I can hear in my own style. As far as inspiration goes, I might list Gabriel Garcia Marquez as more of an inspiration than any of the songwriters, per se.  It’s maybe more apparent in the solo stuff I’m working on than on this duo record, but his magical realism really opens the outer boundaries for where a narrative can lead, and I find that really inspirational. Musically speaking, I find our personal songwriter community to be an incredible inspiration. Our friends are extremely talented and creative, and are always raising and shifting the bar of what a song can be for me.”

Carrie Elkin (carrieelkin.com)

Carrie Elkin (carrieelkin.com)

“I grew up singing in church, and understood the importance of connection through singing at a very young age,” Elkin answered. “So, I’ve always been inspired by singers that really understand how to deliver a song. Whether it be a solo performance or connection through beautiful harmony work. I think Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou, the Beach Boys, and Paul Simon were my first favorites. I really did focus on the singing more than the songwriting at that point. I didn’t start playing guitar or writing songs until I was in college, and I never learned cover songs. I learned three chords and instantly started writing. It was kind of cool to not have the heavy duty songwriter influence. I think it helped me create my own unique style. I started down this path of being a musician because I loved singing and didn’t feel connected to the universe unless it was a part of my daily life. I realized the importance of the songwriting later on. So it was an evolving process for me, for sure. I find myself drawn to the rawness of people’s art. I think I’m drawn to it because it’s something that can’t be taught. It’s so inspiring to me.”

I asked if the two had this album in mind for a long time coming, both being from Austin, or if they met at Red House where it seemed only right to connect their roots.

“We met at a festival when Carrie was still living in Boston.  It was just fortuitous that she was about to move to Austin, and we became a couple. We became a couple pretty soon after she moved down here,” Schmidt answered.  “I was actually born and raised in Austin, so I’m a local.  She’s a johnny-come-lately.  I don’t let her forget that.  It’s part of being an Austinite…reminding everyone who’s moved there after you that you’ve been there longer.”

“Yes, Danny does LOVE to brag about that!  I grew up in Ohio, so don’t have that much to brag about! I feel like all the Ohians at my next show are going to throw tomatoes at me,” Elkin lightheartedly added. “We started singing together straight out the chute.  When we were in the same place at the same time, we would sing harmonies on each other’s songs. That helped us gain an understanding for the nuance of each other’s songs.  When Danny brings a new song to me now, I feel pretty confident I’m going to know where he wants harmonies and what he’s going to want those harmonies to sound like.  We’re quite connected and sensitive to each other’s songs.  I’d say we grew together as musicians in that way, and then from there started sharing shows and from that came this idea of an album.  I’d say it was a pretty organic process.”

What is the song that really captures their connection as artists and songwriters, you ask?

“For me, it might be ‘Company Of Friends.’ That one is actually Carrie singing one of my songs, I sing one of hers on the record, as well…‘Swing From A Note.’ That stemmed from us missing each other when we were touring individually so much, and so we started to play each other’s songs as a way to stay connected a bit.  The fact that Company Of Friends is a “connection”…about how our relationships and our community are what ultimately forge our identity…just kinda makes the whole thing feel full circle for me,” said Schmidt.

“I would have to agree with Mr.Schmidt on that one,” Elkin added.

Their chemistry is undeniable, and out of all the interviews I’ve done, this is one I wish could have taken place over coffee with these charismatic, lovely people!

I wondered if the two had rituals before live performances that helped them get to where they needed to be mentally in order to perform a solid set.

“I pace around like a maniac, take a beta blocker to try and calm my nerves, and Carrie tells me it’s gonna all be okay and that I’ll make it through,” Danny confided, “then we throw ourselves onto the stage. I don’t like being up in front of people. So this is a funny job for me. Carrie on the other hand, is a force of nature. The audience just really draws off her energy.”

“Oh jeesh, Danny paces and twiddles around on his guitar. I prefer silence. Our compatibility is questionable just before a show!” Elkin joked.

Like everything about this lovely couple and their relationship on and off stage, their album was an organic process that grew and evolved off their own individual styles. By melding their music, they also melded their passions, and their music encompasses this in the strongest and most relatable sense.

 

It’s time to sit back, enjoy the connection, and let their music speak everything you’ve once thought, or are currently thinking about the love in your life, the fears you face, and the storm you’ve weathered, or are preparing to weather together.

 

 

 

Always left wanting more

by Samantha Mathewson | August 1, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars was a traditional heart-wrenching tragic love story that left the audience tearful for the love that they had clung to throughout the plot development and then lost themselves.

Ansel Elgort, left, and Shailene Woodley, right, share a kiss in Amsterdam (AP Photo)

Augustus, played by Ansel Elgort, left, and Hazel, played by Shailene Woodley, right, share a kiss in Amsterdam (AP Photo)

It is not to say that I did not cry myself nor thoroughly enjoy the film, because I did. However, since I had read the book prior to seeing the movie, I can say that it fell into the general category of movies that are not as good as the books they are based on.

This happens with most movies, but even more often when these movies are cliché and self-reveling as this one was. The Fault in Our Stars is a tragic love story centered on cancer and the clear importance of the people you meet in a support group.

For the most part, all of the main characters are ill, so one can assume that the story is about the decline of one of them or about the miracle(s) the other(s) encounter. Without spoiling the ending, I can say that the movie does just as well of a job as the book did in hiding who that one character was that we were going to have to lose.

The movie did have its sarcastic, humorous moments and the development of the love between two of the main characters was as quirky as could be expected from someone who is chained to her oxygen tank backpack and another who has a prosthetic leg. The audience fell in love with the pair’s cuteness before the characters fell in love with each other, which was almost instantaneous after their meeting.

Faulted for its play on death (combining cancer and the Holocaust) with a kiss in the Ann Frank Attic as Hazel struggles up the many flights of stairs, only to relieve herself with a kiss from Augustus with a round of applause from fellow museum-goeers, and the character’s reliance on answers from their favorite drunk author who has no sympathy for their illness’, while they feel entitled to the answers they seek within the small timeframe they have left, the film recovers with its acceptance and strength as the two surpass their many struggles.

The loss of a character you grow attached to is always painful, and as Hazel says about her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction, it leaves you wanting more but understanding its abrupt ending. I was left wanting more from the movie, just like I wanted John Green to keep writing, but at least the rest is up to my imagination’s discretion.

A new beginning in NYC

by Elissa Sanci | August 1, 2014

Begin Again, written and directed by John Carney, is a hard film to describe in only a sentence. To label it a comedy would take away from its depth, but to call it heartwarming leaves you with the impression of overemotional acting.

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley in Begin Again (AP Photo)

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley in Begin Again (AP Photo)

Begin Again is a sad yet sweet, heartbreaking yet inspiring, soul stirring and emotionally fulfilling film about music and the binding power it possesses.

Originally released in Canada at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, Begin Again made its way to the big screen in June 2014. The film offers an enjoyable cast, starring Kiera Knightly and Mark Ruffalo and including Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfield, James Corden and Cee Lo Green.

Gretta, played by Knightley, moves to New York with boyfriend David, played by Levine, but quickly gets left behind as he moves forward in his music career.

Heartbroken and ready to leave the city, Gretta spends what she believes to be one last night out, where she plays an original song on guitar for a small crowd. It’s here that she meets Dan Mulligan, played by Ruffalo, a down-on-his-luck record label executive; he sees potential in her, and offers her a chance to record her and turn her into a star.

Together, the pair set out to record an album unlike anything else. The music is sweet and catchy, and Knightley surprises everyone with a beautifully angelic voice featured on many of the film’s tracks.

The bonds formed between the characters seemed wonderfully authentic. Each character was extremely relatable and raw, all serving a purpose to the plot.

The film is cinematically beautiful, and offers 12 original heartwarming songs. Begin Again leaves viewers feeling oddly satisfied and fulfilled, and can relate to people from all walks of life.

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

by Scott Iwaniec | July 16, 2014

Anyone who knows me knows my love for the Transformers movies. I am the unapologetic defender of the Michael Bay Transformers films. Of course I acknowledge the flaws, but as a member of the targeted audience, I was able to happily walk out of the theatre every single time.

Mark Wahlberg, as Cade Yeager, Nicola Peltz as Tessa Yeager, and T.J. Miller as Lucas Flannery, in Transformers: Age of Extinction. (AP Photo)

Mark Wahlberg, as Cade Yeager, Nicola Peltz as Tessa Yeager, and T.J. Miller as Lucas Flannery, in Transformers: Age of Extinction. (AP Photo)

With that being said, I absolutely hate Transformers: Age of Extinction. I generally keep these reviews spoiler free, so details will be excluded. Throughout the entire film I turned to my friends once at least every 90 seconds and point out something that either bothered me, or did not make any sense. By time the film ended, I was beyond bored, angry, confused, and disappointed.

Here’s why: the Transformers films usually have a recipe. I am not referring to the plot formula that each film followed; instead, I’m talking about the pieces in the film that kept me wanting more. The recipe was as follows: a simple plot that can get me from start to finish, likable Autobots who I can get on board with, very attractive females and over the top explosive action.

This film’s first sin is the two hour and 45 minute time span. The second is its plot. The plot tried so hard to be complex, convoluted and intertwining that it quickly gets lost in its own madness and tangles like a slinky. By time the climax happens, you begin to ask yourself, “what exactly are the two sides, and what exactly are they fighting over?”

The Autobots are brand new, aside from returners Optimus (a post-Vietnam Optimus), and the severely underused Bumble Bee. The rest of the Autobots get no introduction, and are the most unlikable robots ever put on film. They are annoying, and you simply do not care for any of them.

There is one hot female, who the movie constantly reminds you is 17-years-old, yet continues to shove her butt on screen in crystal clear definition. This girl is accompanied on-screen by the most annoying and pointless human character out of all four movies, Mark Wahlberg, who clearly looks out of place.

The action is great as always; it just gets exhausting after being stretched out for so long. Even about a third of the computer graphics look unfinished, which is aggravating.

What’s good about this movie? Lockdown: a bounty hunter from Cybertron who identifies as neither Autobot nor Decepticon. I tell you, every second this guy was on screen I was glued. Other than that, there isn’t much to like about this film. And as I said, this is coming from a Michael Bay supporter, so I was not waiting to hate this film. It’s just unfortunate that’s what happened by the end. Please, Paramount, get someone else to direct the fifth movie!

X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

by Scott Iwaniec | July 16, 2014

For the first time since X2 (X-Men United), Brian Singer returns to the franchise and promises to give us one for the books with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Does this film hold up to the hype? Goodness yes! And I say that with enthusiasm and satisfaction.

Michael Fassbender in X-Men: Days of Future Past. (AP Photo)

Michael Fassbender in X-Men: Days of Future Past. (AP Photo)

The reason why this film is so monumental is for the same reason The Avengers was: this was the big crossover film where all characters from each previous movie were included and relevant.

Like The Avengers, X-Men does a great job balancing out screen time, and making everyone seem relevant and significant. The pacing is quick and to-the-point, and characters are all memorable. It was a big worry that Wolverine would be forged as the centerpiece of the film, but I am glad to say that is not true. Wolverine is the medium through which the audience views the events, but the true centerpieces of the film are young Professor X and Mystique.

Like any good comic book film, action scenes are memorable. The opening sequence is reminiscent of the climactic battle in Thor: the Dark World, and I say that with the greatest respect to both.

Like any good X-Men story (film or comic book), the villains are fascinating. There are multiple villains in this film and each is understandable. There are no black/white bad guys and clear answers. Each villain has legitimate motivation no matter how violent their plan is. To me, the greatest villains are the ones where I can shamefully agree with, and this movie has that.

What gives this movie the satisfaction level it has is it’s ending.

SPOILER (kind of): Anyone who knows the X-Men franchise knows how X-Men: The Last Stand is universally hated for its unpopular decisions and deaths. The ending of this film erases all of that. All things you didn’t like are now undone. All time inconsistencies and plot holes have been reduced to a clean slate. And when a certain character walked in at the final moments, I had no shame screaming the “F” word in a sold out theatre. The ending alone is worth the ticket price.

I recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in a thriller with characters who you can invest in. Like Winter Soldier, it’s not just a good comic book film; it is a great film in general.

There is, in fact, word floating around involving a Best Picture Nomination (of course we need to finish off the year to know for sure). Just make sure you see the previous films in the serious. Ditch the Wolverine films, all you need are X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and X-Men: First Class. Enjoy!

Godzilla Review

by Scott Iwaniec | July 16, 2014

With Pacific Rim proving to be an overall success, it’s no wonder why Warner Bros. would invest in yet another giant monster movie. This time, they decided to invest in the cinematic icon of Godzilla.

Scene from Godzilla (AP Photo)

Scene from Godzilla (AP Photo)

Immediately, this film had skeptics, considering the last (and only other) American-made Godzilla film was one of the worst films of the past 20 years. Could this second chance be America’s redemption? I am happy to report: yes.

For those that haven’t read my reviews before, I usually keep my reviews spoiler free in order to encourage others to see the film and make their own determinations, so plot details will not be included. I will not say this movie is my favorite of the summer, because it’s not. But I will say it’s on the upper tier so far.

This movie thrives on the build up of Godzilla’s presence. You don’t see his full shot until about a third of the way into the film. When you do see him, you don’t see him fight until the end. This may sound boring to hear, but it’s not. The film does a fantastic job building up the viewer’s appetite for destruction.

And boy does it deliver at the end. Godzilla’s victory easily claims the Kill of the Year thus far in 2014. Clearly, build-ups and visuals are the strength of this film. However, I will say it does have some weaknesses that weigh it down just a bit.

The main character, Ford Brody, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, is simply boring. The middle drags out when they try to emphasize him and his family, and you really don’t care that much.

Brian Cranston, who plays Joe Brody, gives us a great, but short, performance in the first third of the film. Other than that, the characters aren’t really what keep you in your seat. It’s not terrible, but not on par to what it should be.

I recommend this to anyone who wants a fun summer blockbuster for a Friday night. It’s definitely worth the ticket price, so I encourage everyone to see it.

Hunter Hayes breaks world record for a good cause

by Samantha Mathewson | May 10, 2014

Hunter Hayes left New Haven as fast as he came, Friday, May 8, in an effort to fight child hunger and break a Guinness World Record during his 24-hour Road Race. 

Hunter Hayes/ AP Photo

Hunter Hayes/ AP Photo

Hayes played 10 live shows in 10 cities within 24 hours, breaking the record for the most concerts played in multiple cities in a 24-hour period. The record was previously set by Flaming Lips, the rock band who, in 2012, performed eight shows in 24 hours.  

Hayes started his race May 9 at 8 a.m. on Good Morning America, and continued to Boston and Worcester, Mass., Providence, R.I., New London, New Haven and Stamford Conn., South Orange and Asbury Park, N.J., and Philadelphia, Pa.

While addressing the energetic crowd at Toad’s Place Friday night, Hayes promised that, although it was a short tour, he and the band would make every second fun for the audience.

For his New Haven stop, Hayes played four songs: “Storyline,” “Invisible,” and “Tattoo” from his newly-released album Storyline, and “Wanted” from his self-titled album.

Dan + Shay opened the show, playing the perfect set to get the crowd ready for Hayes. They ended with their iTunes top song and video, “19 You + Me.”

Hayes teamed up with ConAgra Foods and their Child Hunger Ends Here program. The program had its own challenge during the tour – to break the record for the most meals donated in 24 hours.

Martin Guitar, Proctor & Gamble, Mercedes-Benz USA, and Ahold USA sponsored the tour, along with Stop & Shop, who gave away free recycle shopping bags and wristbands to guests as they entered Toad’s.  

X Ambassadors Share The Reason Behind Their Music

by Ashley Winward | May 7, 2014

When Sam Harris was growing up, he started out like any music-obsessed kid, sneaking into college shows in his hometown of Ithaca.

X Ambassadors (Photo obtained via Facebook)

X Ambassadors (Photo obtained via Facebook)

“You had to know somebody there to get into them, but yeah I remember seeing some of them. Usually we’d get the big bands coming through Cornell…I saw Arcade Fire play in this tiny cafeteria and there was like 200 people there. The Roots, I Saw Common, Talib Kweli, De la Soul at [Ithaca College], yeah I saw a lot of great shows and it definitely had an impact on me ‘cause that was the one time I really got to see these bands that I idolized come through my town. To see them up close and personal, that was cool because it feels very isolated from the rest of the world, so when the rest of the world kind of came to Ithaca it felt very special.”

Since then, it’s been a wild journey for Harris and the rest of X Ambassadors. Putting out two EPs in a little over a year, you may have seen these guys touring with the likes of Imagine Dragons, Jimmy Eat World, The Mowglis, and Panic! At the Disco on the Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die tour this past winter.

If you’ve never heard the band, their sound is unmistakable. Their first EP, Love Songs, Drug Songs, has this darkness that digs at you with a chugging rhythm. It makes you feel like bouncing to the beat. Their newest EP, The Reason, has a bit of a different vibe to it. It’s brighter but with an overarching theme.

“The reason we wrote that EP is that we have a lot of friends. We’re in our mid-twenties right now and a lot of friends we knew finished college, went to pursue artistic careers and are realizing how seriously difficult that is. A lot of them are finding that their dreams that they dreamed of becoming are not working out, and they’re not going to work out, so they’re changing paths to figure out what’s next. That’s a very scary thing, but a very real thing that a lot of people have to deal with, you know?” said Harris. “When life gets in the way and changes course, it’s crazy, it’s scary, but it can also be exciting! It can be invigorating and vitalizing, and it can teach and show you things about yourself you didn’t know beforehand and allow you to do things you’d never think possible. So that’s a real thing a lot of people we knew were going through and for us. The reason I started writing about that was because we’re in a position where the pressure is on. We’re at a big label, things are starting to build, there’s momentum and what if that momentum stops? This is all we know. All we know is music. This is all we’ve done our entire lives. We’ve all been doing this for so long what if it all fell apart? What’s the plan? So that’s what I wanted to explore and study,” Harris said.

The EP is about a man looking back at his life and tracing it back to where he is. He’s living a suburban life with a suit-and-tie job. He had dreams of what he wanted to do when he was younger, and goes back in time to the beginning when he was a child. It starts on “Free and Lonely” and ends with “Unsteady.” “Shining” is a bonus track.

What I love most about this band is that no matter how big or small the venue, they bring this larger-than- life sound, something that they learned from the music they grew up with. Harris explained, “We all came from backgrounds where we were all listening to the music that first hit us,” Harris explained. “They sounded big! U2 and Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay: they all have a really big sound. When you really get down to it though, it’s all about chord structure and simple elements. It’s really for us about experimentation and trial and error, whatever sounds best. We’ve found

lately that you can make something sound really big with just one instrument, you just have to focus on the instrument and getting the right take. You have to get the right guitar line or piano sound or drum sound. A single drum kit could sound so huge, look at John Bonham. You have to allow for and give moments of space too, so we approach it like that.”

Their use of saxophone also adds a unique element to their band that has been growing in music popularity lately. Harris admitted the extent of his playing.

“I played from when I was 10 or 12 [years old] to when I was a senior in high school, and then I didn’t play at all in college. It wasn’t until we graduated in 2010 that I picked it up again when we were going to lay down some horn parts on the EP. I just whipped it out and started playing, and so I started up again. Now it’s become asignature part of our sound, which is really cool. I don’t think anyone out there is incorporating saxophone like we’re doing it right now….in a very basic and mediocre way, but it’s really cool! I’m not technically the greatest horn player out there, but looping technology allows me to build these cool chords to fill a hole in our sound, which is awesome,” he said.

With their headlining tour winding down, the boys are ready to get back into the studio. “After this tour we’re going to start preproduction on our full length [album]. We’ve been writing and recording a bunch. All of The Reason was written out on the road, so we’re constantly coming up with new stuff, we probably have an albums worth of new stuff. We’ve been developing, and we’ll keep developing over the next couple of months. Hopefully in the fall we’ll be out doing another headlining run, but that’s kind of up in the air right now.” Harris said.

When asked to give the music industry and sound recording majors of the University of New Haven some advice, Harris stressed dedication to a career, not just a job. “I’d say the biggest thing about getting a career in this industry is to really treat it like a career. You’re not really going to be making major money immediately. You’re going to be doing a lot of work for free…”

 

 

 

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