Visit our sponsors

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Voltage Band Spotlight #5: Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps

Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps - Photo by Amanda Johnson

Band members: Caroline Smith (guitar, vocals), Arlen Peiffer (drums), Jesse Schuster (bass) and Colin Hacklander (keyboards)


Caroline Smith is going places. Literally. Smith and her three piece band band The Good Night Sleeps, which consists of Colin Hacklander (Something With Kites) on keyboards, Jesse Schuster (Lucy Michelle) on bass and Arlen Peiffer (Cloud Cult, The Wapsipinicon) on drums, will hit the Voltage Fashion Amplified stage a week after a tour of the Midwest and the East Coast that takes them from Iowa City to Brooklyn and back again. As soon as Voltage winds up, the band will be back out on the road less than a week later to Madison, Chicago and South Bend, Indiana.

Smith’s folk/pop debut Backyard Tent Set came out in 2008. Often compared to Lucy Michelle, with whom she shares bassist Jesse Schuster, for her Billie Holiday/Joanna Newsom-like vocals, Caroline Smith played First Avenue’s Best New Bands showcase in 2008. On her Myspace page, Smith cities an exceedingly diverse list of influences, from Ben Gibbard, to Wilco, to Carly Simon and The Pixies. It all adds up to a listen that is always engaging, often tender and accessible whichever direction your musical taste runs.

What strikes me most about Smith is her poise. She’s a performer fully aware and fully in control while on stage. Her songs are often troubling, but matter of fact stories. Check out “Closing the Doors” as an exemplary song.

Smith released Live At The Cedar in January, and the band is currently working on a full length album due out later in 2010.

For Voltage, Caroline Smith and her band will be outfitted by Calpurnia Peach, the designer team of Luci Kandler and Ashley Wokasch. (In the publicity photo above, Smith is wearing one of their dresses.)

Voltage is Friday, April 16th at First Avenue. Buy your tickets now!

Head over to our Voltage partner, L'etoile Magazine for this week's designer profiles on Emma Berg and Kevin Kramp.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Voltage Band Spotlight #4: Red Pens

(Red Pens - Photo by Stephanie Colgan)

Band Members: Howard W. Hamilton III (guitars, effects) Laura F. Bennett (drums)


Guitarist and drummer two-piece rock bands have appeared on the local and national scene in the past whom I have wished would get a bass player. Red Pens is not one of those bands. The duo of Howard W. Hamilton III and Laura F. Bennett have no trouble filling rooms (even First Avenue’s main room, where they played the most recent “Best New Bands” showcase) with their powerful, feedback and emotionally-drenched dissonant sound. The band holds the stage with the energetic presence often reserved for three and four-piece ensembles.

Bennett (drums) and Hamilton (guitars, effects) are both veterans of the Twin Cities music scene, Hamilton most recently a member of The Busy Signals, and Bennett the former drummer for the Mood Swings. Red Pens won the coveted “Picked to Click” designation from the City Pages in 2009 even before their debut album, Reasons hit the streets. Reasons was released in February on the Grain Belt Records label, and vinyl aficionados will delight the album was also released in limited edition 12-inch format with a record release party a couple weekends ago at the Hexagon.

Red Pens’ moody, sonic attack is best experienced live; though Reasons does a terrific job of representing the range of sound the band is capable of. The band toured earlier this spring, playing venues from Chicago to New York City. Both Hamilton and Bennett give it their all when they perform live, Bennett often smiling from behind the drums balancing Hamilton’s stern visage. It’s the perfect balance of yin and yang.

If you like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine or the Velvet Underground, you’ll likely find much to love about Red Pens, who will bring fuzzy, art-rock intensity to Voltage 2010.

For Voltage, Red Pens will be outfitted by Red Shoe Clothing Company, a design group founded by Kerry Riley in 2002.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Voltage Band Spotlight #3 - Mayda


Band Members: Mayda Miller (vocals, guitar), Michael Bland (drums),Cory Eischen (keyboards, samples), Andy Mark (bass), Jacob Hanson (guitar)


St. Paul’s Mayda Miller (or simply Mayda) comes to Voltage hot on the heals of her 2009 EP Eyes on the Water which was released digitally on Michael Bland’s Sonic Matrimony Collective label in November. (Bland, Mayda’s drummer, is best known as the drummer for Prince during The New Power Generation years and even more recently as the drummer for Soul Asylum.)

I first encountered Mayda when she played acoustically at the Mad Ripple Hootenanny in 2009. Those who were seeing her for the first time that night will never forget when she strapped on her blue guitar for the wonderfully risqué “Good Girls,” which appears on her latest EP. (That song is a great starting point for a new listener, and you should check it out here.)

Though “Good Girls” is an catchy and clever acoustic ditty, Mayda is known for tearing it up at electric shows: exact, energetic and in control, she is an attention-getter and attention-keeper.

I’m proud of myself for making it halfway through this profile without mentioning Mayda is a petite and unassuming 4 foot10 inch tall Korean woman, but seems at least twice that tall when she hits the stage. In person she exudes a calm and gentle confidence.

CD Baby recommends Mayda to music lovers who like Black Eyed Peas, Grace Jones, or Prince, and that’s a start. Her power pop, and both acoustic electric alternative hip-hop have mainstream appeal, but are more than engaging and intriguing enough to endear her to the most critically-minded music fan as well.

Of all the other comparisons I’ve read in reviews, perhaps Mark Brenden put it best in the fall in the Minnesota Daily when describing her new EP, saying it contains “the vocal prowess and Aretha Franklin-level emotion” as well as the “guitar goddess-ness of Nancy Wilson.”

However you describe her, Mayda and her band are a brilliant addition to the Voltage line-up bound to add cutting-edge flair to their segment of the show that’s bound to get the heads of the crowd bobbing.

Mayda and her band will be outfitted for Voltage by veteran local designer Laura Fulk.

See also this week, Juleana Enright’s Voltage Spotlights on designers Raul Osorio and Elena Mercurio.