Friday, July 11, 2008

New Music: Rock the River

How do you learn about new music these days?

I was reassured to hear an episode on WNYC’s Soundcheck months ago now about good bands seeking to place their songs on commercials and tv shows, now that radio is so formulaic. I was also really happy to have them identify that song, “I am holding half an acre…” from the Liberty Mutual Insurance ad. It is a pretty song and I downloaded Hem’s Rabbit Songs at once. It turns out to be good music here at the river for the first bit of writing in the morning. But, more than iBook, Kia, and Insurance ads (not the most noble way to find music) hearing it live is still the best.

On the 4th, we went to a benefit concert for the Save the River nonprofit at the Clayton Opera House. It was a great, fun show and we came away with four new artists to follow—and two new cds. There were a dozen performers or so, eight of whom sang a couple songs apiece. The whole event was distinctly local (even though most of the singers flew in from LA or tour) and unpolished: people came out and searched for the plugs for their guitars, came out and yelled backstage for this or that musician to join them. It was like a Dan Zanes show without toddlers and the whole thing had a groovy Brooklyn-in-the-country vibe. Each song brought out a new combination of musicians and no one was a diva about singing backup.

The next night, out on the boat watching fireworks with my husband’s cousins, we mentioned the concert. It turns out that the organizer, Jay Nash, is the son of our young cousin’s piano teacher: “Tell Mrs. Nash that her son organized a great show, ok?”

Since we get to hear live music about three times a year, we were really stunned to see that we had heard one of the singer-songwriters before: Amber Rubarth.

She is terrific. Last winter, we went down to the Electric Company in Utica to hear some music and she was the opening act. We loved her whole show: she has crazy good pipes, sweet funny lyrics, and terrific presence. It was fantastic to see her again and, for the first time to learn her name for sure. She’s very young, full of promise, and her songs really get you going. They make me feel young again and my daughters are clapping and stomping along to her in the car. With songs about painting and colors and watching the laundry spin around in the dryer, she is a real bohemian girl with a lovely, lovely spirit. Her song “Novacaine” is great, both for displaying her vocal range and her lyrical originality. She goes to the doctor, broken heart in hand, and, not heeding his advice, she just nabs some novacaine and numbs it, only later to run into him and have him notice her blank, sunken eyes…

So, you’re hearing it here: Amber Rubarth. Amber Rubarth. Amber Rubarth.


Matt said...

I've been finding new things in people's Muxtapes, though LastFM, and occasionally Pandora.

It's pretty much all internet, now, for finding new music and new books, especially for the introvert crowd. My close friends are scattered far and wide, and when I find a good Muxtape with artists I haven't heard before, it's like a friend sent me a gift. I don't know if that's more a comment on society now or on my introverted lifestyle, but I'm glad for the authors and artists I've discovered.

Anne said...

I haven't tried LastFM & will check it out. I loved Pandora when I tried it, but it began to consume my days--I was trying to outwit the logarithm all the time, rather than just listening....