Thursday, October 14, 2010
Stripmall Ballads - This unique outing tonight combined the talents of the excellent Stripmall Ballads presenting a song cycle/theater piece called "The Perfect Pipe Bomb" written by guitarist/vocalist Phillips Saylor with additional vocalists, actors and puppeteers. The play hearkens back to the beat/early hippie era with John and Jane Doe journeying off to St. Louis. The story is told through the songs, some narration and puppets. There were shadow puppets that had the best puppet love scene I have seen since "Team America: World Police" (ok, the only puppet sex scene I have seen since then). There were also two 15' tall puppet characters mingling amidst the crowded room. In fact, that was about the only real negative of the night as the room at the Strathmore Mansion was not sufficient for the crowd. After straining my body in an odd angle in a crowd that I am more used to at a 9:30 Club sellout, I decided to take the second act from the lobby behind the room where fortunately I could still hear and see all. It was nice to have such a strong attentive crowd for this interesting presentation, so my complaints are minor. Everyone enjoyed it and it was the second night in a row of seeing an attentive audience absorbed with the music (and acting tonight). I enjoyed it as well, as the Stripmall Ballads play an excellent Americana styled folk-rock that rises above many other bands--they are the ones where you think "this has been done to death". They sounded good tonight with a bit more electric guitar tonight and some lead female vocals which were excellent. They had a chorus of up to seven other vocalists as well, so they were able to vary the arrangements quite a bit which added to the depth of the overall presentation. I am a theater fan as well as a music fan and it is nice to see people challenge themselves with a presentation like this. That sometimes happens at the Fringe Festival, but this effort was much steadier and higher quality than many of those efforts.
Quote of the Night: from the stage before the start... "You will need to make some space for two fifteen feet high puppets that will be coming in from the back" which resulted into a bemused groan from the packed audience. Yet somehow it all worked with only a chandelier getting in the way.
Posted by David Hintz at 10/09/2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Arts & Entertainment : One Track Mind
Ballads, Stripmall Stripmall Ballads A, yes, ballad for uncomfortable moments when you can't look away
By Steve Kolowich on May 21, 2010
Standout Track: No. 2, “Woman with a Black Eye”—a, yep, ballad about hard moments between victims and their reluctant observers, the kind that can’t be sorted out by Miss Manners or the Bible. The tune is straight-up country—it even has the word purty in it—but it nods at its urban origins by layering in ambient sounds from the alley behind the Rosedale house where the band laid it down. Otherwise, it’s a simple chord cycle and a hooky little refrain that appropriates the rote melancholy of any chorus centered on the word hallelujah.
Musical Motivation: Stripmall frontman Phillips Saylor drew from his interactions with abused women in his Northeast neighborhood. “It’s a very difficult, painful thing to see,” Saylor says. “And sometimes if you stare, and they see you, and they know what you’re thinking, some people…give you that look where it’s like, ‘Fuck off, don’t judge me.’” Saylor says he wrote the chorus—“What do you say to the woman with a black eye?/Hallelujah sounds so sad”—after listening to the hosts of a Christian radio talk show discuss God’s role in facing tragedy. “They really cooked it down to all that matters is ‘Hallelujah, Christ is risen,’” Saylor says—a mantra too tidy to allay the paralyzing discomfort of those brushes with injustice.
Sucker Punchline: Saylor says he wrote “Woman with a Black Eye” to break the silence that stalks domestic abuse and its victims. But it’s always a toss-up as to whether an audience will buy into the gravity of the song. More than once, Saylor says, someone in the crowd has interrupted the chorus after “What do you say to the woman with a black eye?” by yelling, “Nothing—you done told the bitch once!”
Monday, February 8, 2010
(thanks, simone, for sending this to me!)
"Stripmall Ballads is Phillips Saylor with a guitar or banjo. Listening to his MySpace page, you’d think that his shows would be rather mellow, but the man has so much stage presence, and power in his playing, that is seems like a full band is on the stage. Definitely worth catching..."
Thursday, January 14, 2010
"Ballads, Stripmall" Now on CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/stripmallballads) and soon all over the internet
Ballads, Stripmall is a deeply charismatic album. It locates itself resolutely in the injured drama of Northeast DC and invites us into that world. Its commitment to context is evidenced by the fact that the sounds of the back alley of the studio were recorded in simultaneously with the musical performances and woven through the songs… unedited… and in real time. The chirping of birds, the shouts of kids, hip-hop pulsing out of cars, sirens and laughter drift through the recording and document life in Northeast. These aren’t sound effects and they aren’t ironic. They are reminders to the artist and to the listener that our lives intersects with the lives of others and that art resides at this intersection… sometimes homeless and panhandling… sometimes selling newspapers and cold water… and sometimes just shooting the breeze with passers-by. This is folk music.