Over the Weekend: May 30-June 1
Tally Hall 7th Street Entry, June 1 By Andrea Myers
In case you couldn't tell, I'm a sucker for covers. They can build a bridge between a band and unfamiliar listeners, they give songs a chance to live on in a new way, and, if played especially well, can sometimes surpass the legacy of the original. So I was tickled pink when indie pop/rock/hip-hop/soul group Tally Hall broke out a wicked "Free Bird" cover in the middle of their set at the Entry last night.
Which isn't to say that the rest of their set wasn't enjoyable, because it was -- Tally Hall play harmony-driven rock that somehow incorporates every pop music trend from the last 40 years. Songs are sung in four-part harmony, and the singers trade off lead to add variety to an already multi-colored tapestry; guitarist Joe Hawley's voice is smooth and operatic, bassist Zubin Sedghi is a low tenor, and ostensible frontman Rob Cantor alternates between sugary sweet melodies and nerdy white boy rap.
The group played almost every song off their debut album, Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, which was just released in April, including "Banana Man," "Welcome to Tally Hall," and crowd sing-along "Good Day." Though the audience was small (there were probably 40-50 people in attendance) every person there seemed to be a die-hard Tally Hall fan, and most new the words to all of the songs from their album.
And then there was the cover. Between songs, Hawley asked people to shout out requests and an inevitable "Free Bird!" came from the crowd. "We made a promise to ourselves that if anyone shouts Free Bird, we have to play it," Hawley said, and they proceeded to launch into a note-perfect rendition of the song that had the crowd hooked from the opening organ chord to the final guitar lick.
It was a memorable cover, to be sure, and there was a change in the energy after they played the song, like the crowd could hardly stand waiting to see what would happen next.
Yoshida Brothers May 31, Cedar Cultural Center Review by Jeff Shaw
How to describe the virtuosity of Japan's Yoshida Brothers? Ryoichiro and Kenichi Yoshida play the tsugaru-shamisen, a traditional Japanese three-stringed banjo. Cross-cultural superstars, the brothers attack the instruments with flying fingers that blend picking with bent notes and power chords.
The sound is robust and percussive, and -- even if you missed their show Saturday night at the Cedar Cultural Center -- you've heard it before. This Wii ad from 2006 features their distinctive sound:
That ad doesn't give anywhere near the full picture of the Yoshidas' sound, which is sometimes accompanied on CD by a full band, incorporating Western rock elements. Whether backed by guitar, drums and bass, or whether (as was the case at the Cedar) it's just two men and six strings, the Yoshida Brothers can suffuse a room with individuated notes. Think Kirk Hammett buys a koto and maybe you're close.
Even in Japan, this style of play is unique. The natives of Northern Hokkaido have a rousing, vigorous energy that's functionally different from shamisen players in places like laid-back Okinawa. But listeners can tell the rich musical legacy, Japanese and American, that these masters draw upon to produce music. You could hear the influence of American rock n' roll long before the Yoshidas quoted "Smoke on the Water" during a well-anticipated encore.
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