December 20, 2012
Concert for New York: great show, but hi-def not necessary
If there was one thing I learned from watching the last half of the Concert for New York at Madison Square Garden on TV last Wednesday, it has to be this:
High definition cameras are not the aging classic rocker’s friend.
I mean, the first closeup image that popped up when I tuned into the network broadcast of the hurricane Sandy benefit concert was this frightening image of a man’s face that was like a white-haired version of the Incredible Hulk. His vocal chords seemed to be straining. His shirt was torn open, and he was soaked in sweat.
And then I realized it was Roger Daltrey. Probably into his second or third song of the set.
A few days later, I surfed around the internet and located a few clips from the concert of the Rolling Stones. As I watched, I couldn’t help noticing the hi-def camera view of Mick Jagger’s hair — there seemed to be a 35-year age-difference between the haircut and body. Granted, I can only wish that I wind up with half of the energy he has when I get to be his age. But I think I’d rather have people look at me with binoculars, like we did in the old concert days, instead of all the hi-definition cameras and videoscreens at todays events.
Getting all of those classic rockers together for a show was quite a feat, and in the back of my mind, I kind of wondered what the younger folks thought of the whole scene. It turns out I got to ask an upstart band that question just the other day.
The Lower 48 (that’s their name, not their age) will be in town on Friday. And it’s fitting, too, because the band cites the influences of rock and roll acts from the 60s that played in New York last week.
And wether you remember the era when Billy Joel actually had hair, or the year Kanye West came out with his first song, I’m sure the 48’s music will bring everybody together for a good time.
Interview with Ben Braden of the Lower 48
Go ahead and describe your music, what is the Lower 48 about?
The Lower 48 is used to be sort of a folk thing, but we’ve transitioned into a ’60s pop band. We got a lot more into rock and roll, and I guess we’ve always been. Our first album isn’t necessarily what we play now, and it’s sort of transferred into a different thing, which is pretty cool. We’re a three piece band, that you can come out and dance to and have a good time.
So you rearranged your format to have more energy?
Our stuff is a lot more fun to play live. When we started playing live a lot more, I mean a lot more, I think we realized that we wanted to play more stuff that people can dance too.
I did notice the change from your original tracks and the recent files you sent me. It does sound like more arrangements and more instruments.
So how do you present that live with just 3 people?
Well, that’s it, that’s how we have to figure it out, because we do have a lot of arrangements, with piano and strings and studio instruments. We are bass, drums and guitar, basically, so that’s our format, and we’ve asked ourselfs, what can we do with that? We’ve learned to have a really strong rhythm section, and that’s kind of how we pull it off live. And what we lose in instruments, we make up in sheer playing power.
Musically who has been your big influences?
I’d say Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Cream, ’60s music, the Stones. On that topic, did you get to see any of the Concert for New York? Yeah, (laughs,) I did!
What’s your take on that?
It is what it is, I wasn’t expecting it to be any more than what is was. It was cool to see all those guys out there. The Who was there, the Stones, Paul McCartney was there. It was fun to watch, I liked Paul’s set, it was good, really good, but it’s a benefit concert, it’s not like the coolest concert in the world. But it was definitely amazing that they got all those people in one building. Especially the Stones. That was overkill!
Is there a CD available and does it still represent what you guys are about?
There is, you can get it through us or online, and it’s called “Where All Maps End.” Although we’re movin on from the folk sound that we started doing, it’s still enjoyable.
How did your band get its start?
Well, we’re all from the Midwest, and we all had an itching to go to Portland. Myself and Sara started the band, we started playing together, and then we all moved out here. We had some other members, but that kind of got trimmed down by the move, because not everybody wants to move to the West Coast to play in a band, but we did. There’s a reason the way the band is what it is, I think we’re good, and I think people would like to come see us. The reason we’re good is because we’re out here, and we’ve got nothing else to do but play! We have to call our own bluff a little bit, like, let’s move out to the West Coast and play in a band, and then we’re gonna work really hard to do this.
And what year did this happen?
And music is your full time job out here?
Yes. It took a while to get there, but now, I mean, it’s paying the bills, not handsomely, might I add!
Where in Portland do you guys play?
We basically play 2 venues. Doug Fir Lounge and Missisippi studios. Those are the two places we play with regularity.
As headlining or support?
Both, sometimes we headline, sometimes co-headline. We’re in Missisippi Studios in January, sometimes we’ll open for a touring band. And every show is different.
What do you want people to take away from the songs that you play?
I don’t know, whatever they want, really. It’s hard to describe songs and what they mean, and stuff, because a lot of times the song stands for what it is.
Do you guys include a lyric sheet with your cd?
Yes, they are included.
*I think that’s important.***
Yeah, I do too, especially if you’re a lyrical band. Sometimes, it could be important to not have your lyrics, if your trying to disguise your music and part of your thing is to make people guess what you are about. But I think with us, it’s pop music, and people want to know the lyrics, so they can sing along.
What one thing would you like to say to the folks of Hood River to try and get them to come out?
We invite you all to come on out of the cold, have a drink and let us serenade you and make you feel like it’s summertime.
Thanks for coming out to Hood River to play live music.
Thank you and thanks for the opportunity to talk about this!
From the Lower 48 Press Release: Ben Braden and Sarah Parson began writing and singing folk music together in the winter of 2009 in Minneapolis, MN. Within a few months they were playing shows in Minneapolis, Chicago and other Midwestern venues, and before summer they had finished recording their first release, the critically praised EP “Everywhere To Go.” Following the release of “Everywhere To Go,”
Ben and Sarah headed west, relocating The Lower 48 to Portland, OR. Playing regularly on the West Coast, they developed a more mature sound and wrote a host of new songs. In the summer of 2010, Nicholas Sadler, another Minneapolis native relocated to Portland, and joined the band as percussionist. Soon after the Lower 48 began.