You Sing, I Write: December 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Music Blogs to Peruse

Working the day after Christmas is always rough. As the year winds down, so does everyone's work ethic . . . even mine! Everyone is just waiting to be off again in a few more days for New Years and who can blame them? I feel like I've been slacking on my blog as well, but I promise that lots of exciting posts are already lined up for 2008! I have a few concerts as well as interviews and album reviews set up in the upcoming weeks so I promise to keep busy and continue posting as much as I possibly can in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, below are a few blogs/websites I think you music lovers will enjoy. Thanks again for checking out my blog and leaving comments. It means the world to know you all enjoy reading it and I can continue doing what I love! Feel free to leave comments or email me at if you have any suggestions for the blog. I love hearing from all of you!

Hits from the Blog
For anyone trying to keep up with the latest in the Hip-hop scene, this is the blog for you. Dom, my former music editor of the entertainment section of the paper at Rutgers, sure knows how to write and updates his blog daily, often with various tracks and videos to check out. Definitely sift through his blog for his latest music commentary.

The Jew Spot
For everything crazy, sexy and Jewish. My friend Monica just started up this blog after conquering the world. Well, practically. She is the sole person who put together the Sharsheret Breast Cancer Benefit concert at the beginning of the month which I covered for my blog. The event raised over $700 and featured a group of amazingly talented women performers. Her blog has interviews with two of these female singers, discussing their different styles of music and what it means to be Jewish in today's world, many of who are breaking the stereotype.

The Daily Vault
This website has it all. Over 5,000 album reviews, interviews and features with various musicians, liner notes, and blogs. You name it, it's there. I love reading interviews to see what types of questions other journalists ask artists, just to make sure I'm on the same page. I happened to stumble upon a great interview with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot. You can check that out here.

Thanks again to everyone who has been reading, to all the musicians who have taken time out of their busy schedules to sit down and talk with me, and all the managers and publicists who have been able to set up the interviews for me! Hope everyone has been having a great holiday season and that 2008 is even more successful and promising for everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2007

My Favorite Holiday Tunes

I finally started to listen to some holiday songs while wrapping gifts this weekend. Besides figuring out that I am by far the worst gift wrapper (you know, the kind that cuts the wrapping paper just about an inch too short so there's a little strip of box showing underneath), I happened to find an old Christmas CD I must have made back in high school and figured I'd share some of my favorite tunes. So here's my top 10 favorite holiday tunes, in no particular order.

1. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole
To be honest, I had no clue this was even the name of the song. Possibly better known for its subtitle and opening line - "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" - Nat King Cole's calming voice makes everyone want to sit back, relax and drink some eggnog while trying to resist the temptation of opening all those gifts under the Christmas tree.

2. "Let It Snow" by Dean Martin
Another classic holiday song by crooner Dean Martin with lyrics such as "The weather outside is frightful, but the fire's so delightful/Since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow." Seriously, who doesn't love a perfect rhyme scheme repetition throughout a song? I think every song should be entirely made up of clever rhymes.

3. "Sleigh Ride" the instrumental version.
I think all those years of playing "Sleigh Ride" on my clarinet throughout high school finally has grown on me. It really is a quality song. I really like Relient K's version as can check it out on their MySpace

4. "Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney.
From the catchy intro McCartney has me hooked. Everyone should simply have a wonderful Christmas time.

5. "Last Christmas" by Wham!
Possibly one of the more depressing holiday songs, Wham! demonstrates how horribly heart-wrenching it is to have your heart broken on Christmas.

6. "All I Want for Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey.
This may be my favorite Christmas song. The lyrics, the rhythm. Maybe it's just the hopeless romantic in me, but every time I hear this song I just can't help but sing along regardless where I am.

7. "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by N'Sync.
Okay, okay. You can make fun of this choice, but remember I grew up during the boy band era. This song just can't help but get you into the holiday spirit. The piano introduction, the up tempo beat throughout the song's entirety, Justin Timberlake . . . I have a feeling it may be a lot of people's guilty pleasure holiday song.

8. "Blue Christmas" by Elvis Presley.
He is the King. Need I say more?

9. "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid.
It's amazing that this song was released back in 1984 and it's probably one of the most played holiday songs today, not to mention this song has helped raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Singers on this track include Duran Duran, Paul Young, George Michael, Sting and Bono, just to name a few.

10. "Oh Holy Night" by Josh Groban.
His voice is simply phenomenal on this song. He starts out the song softly, but then perfects throughout the song in spots where his voice and the music both slowly crescendo.

Again, these are only 10 of my picks out of hundreds of holiday songs out there. Hopefully you enjoyed a few of them! Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Update: Switchfoot Raises Over $100,000 on Tour Benefiting Habitat for Humanity

“We felt we were helping in the best way we could – in light of the fact that this tour was about rebuilding and working in Habitat for Humanity,” Switchfoot drummer Chad Butler says of being on tour while the fires were raging in hometown San Diego.

The “Appetite for Construction Tour” means a lot more to San Diego natives Switchfoot taking the unfortunate fires in California into account.

“It’s surreal to look at the streets where you grew up on CNN from the back of a tour bus . . . I really feel for the people who lost so much,” drummer Chad Butler said. “I’m sure Habitat will be helpful in aiding those families. It’s a reminder that you’re not guaranteed tomorrow.”

Having just wrapped up their tour, “Appetite for Construction” has been very different from past Switchfoot tours, Butler explained. With $1 from every concert ticket going to benefit Habitat for Humanity, over $100,000 has been raised for the organization. All three bands on tour have been helping out at Habitat builds throughout the country while Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Matt Thiessen of Relient K have written a song, “Rebuild,” which fans can purchase at, donating the money directly to Habitat. Possibly the highlight of every show, each night of the tour all three bands come out on stage and perform this song together.

“Our goal is to encourage people to donate time locally in their own city. One of the most amazing things about Habitat is you don’t need to have any prior experience or expertise . . . they’ll put you to work and you make a difference. I’ve been really excited to see our audience come down to the sites and help out,” Butler said.

Matt Thiessen of Relient K agrees. “One of the best things of this tour is the meaning behind it,” he told the audience at the Nov. 17 NYC show at Hammerstein Ballroom. “One dollar of every ticket goes to Habitat for Humanity. We want to encourage everyone to check out their local chapters and go to some sites. It’s a lot easier than you think. We’re never completely content with where we are in life. We need to be compassionate. Being compassionate is what makes us feel alive.”

Habitat builds aren’t the only thing keeping Switchfoot busy. Their seventh album is already in the works and is expected out late next year. Singer/songwriter Jon Foreman is also working on four solo EP’s, the first entitled Fall just released last month. He’s also collaborating with Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek, calling themselves The Real SeanJon. Foreman explained the EP’s are six songs each and can be purchased on his Website,

“A lot of these songs are the more personal songs that don’t really belong on a band record,” Foreman said. “I’ll be doing four EP’s. They’re going to be called Fall, Winter, Summer and Spring. I’m working on Winter now. I haven’t even thought about Spring yet. I’ll think about Spring when it starts getting warmer out.”

Foreman explained the inspiration behind his music as “the specific place where I’m at in life. For me, most of my songs come from the problems in my life. When I’m happy I hang out with my friends and go surfing. That’s not when you write a song. You write a song when you’re depressed, angry and bitter and you’re trying to figure out the world.”

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Army of Me Interview Featured On

My interview with Vince was posted this past week on! You can check out the page here.

Feel free to leave comments!

For more info on Army of Me check out their website here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Q&A with Army of Me's Vince Scheuerman

It's hard to believe a few years ago drummer Dennis Manuel of Army of Me never picked up a drumstick and singer/songwriter Vince Scheuerman never wrote a lyric, “But it didn’t matter, because we were going to take over the world,” frontman Vince Scheuerman said. Army of Me started out playing in a friend’s basement, eventually recording a demo and touring up and down the East Coast before expanding their tour to the mid-West, getting signed on label Doghouse Records and releasing their first full-length album, Citizen, back in April.

Vince was nice enough to sit down with me last Thursday and answer all my questions about the band, the inspiration behind his writing and the stories behind some of his songs.

How could you afford to do all those tours? Did you guys have steady jobs?
It's tough because anything that you love to do is hard to make money out of and there’s a lot of other people that are trying to do it too because it’s the cool thing to do. What you’re doing, what other artists are doing, musicians, photographers. It’s really hard. And it never pays you enough anyway. It’s underappreciated. We used to work jobs. I went to college for mechanical engineering so I worked a job at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, for a while. NIST set standards of measurements of length and time and weight. I was dealing with really small lengths, like atomic lengths. So we had microscopes that could see atoms. It was pretty insane. I’d sit in the basement, in the dungeon, working on these microscopes and then as soon as I was out of there I’d be playing music, practicing. I’m just always in the dungeon. What’s up with that? I didn’t see the daylight very much. I lived in a basement apartment. There’s a theme here.

Tell me a little bit about your writing process.
The weird thing about songwriting is it’s hard to describe how it happens. I’ve heard other people describe it and I can kind of relate to how they describe it as something that you don’t really have any control over, it just happens. And when it happens you’re like, ‘Holy shit, that was awesome, but how did I do that?’ you get a feeling like you didn’t do that. It’s hard to explain. Inspiration can strike at any moment. But then I have to make myself sit down and try to work on it, try to come up with something. When I finish a song or come up with a cool thing, the feeling is amazing. It’s a really powerful feeling, like ‘Oh my God I created that, that’s pretty cool.’ But at the same moment, I think how did I write that?

I really like the songs on our new record, Citizen. I’m really proud of what I was feeling and going through during the writing of that record and how I said it. I don’t know how it comes off to other people, but when I look at how I said what I was feeling I’m like, wow that was beautiful. With Citizen, I’m like how did I do that? Where did that come from? Could I duplicate it? Could I do it again? I don’t know. It’s almost like channeling something, like a grace given to you. I still don’t know how to write songs. People are like how do you write songs? I don’t know. But it happens.

Definitely feeling upset about something or wanting something, desiring something triggers a strong emotion. There’s definitely inspiration for a song. I think a lot of songs come from a place of desire, of yearning for something to satisfy you and you’re not feeling that thirst or hunger or quench. And you write about it. Whatever form it may be. It can be a relationship, anything. It is for me. I’m a pretty passionate person. I get hungry a lot, not necessarily for food. I think that’s the human condition, the feeling of looking for something and asking questions about what does it all mean. For me, songwriting is about looking for the meaning, asking for questions, searching for those desires, searching for that thing, whatever it is.

Do you ever want to hold back when writing a song?
I’m a pretty open person. When it comes to songs I don’t really think about that. It’s not that hard for me to be personal with songs, it’s hard for me to be personal with a friend, somebody I know. Maybe you’re more afraid of the judgment that a friend may have, to care what that person thinks. Songwriting for me is my way of searching - documenting my life and what’s going on inside of me.

I really like “Better Run.” When you listen to it, it just seems so honest. What inspired it, or what were you thinking about when you were writing it?
I’m always kind of hesitant to tell specific stories behind songs because I like to leave it up to people’s interpretation. When someone has an idea of what a song’s about to them, it usually has to relate to their life. When I tell them what it’s about they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s not what I thought.’ It takes away the message.

“Better Run” comes from . . . I was in a relationship for 6 years with someone. To be honest, she was really great - a beautiful person inside and outside. I never really experienced that much love from another human being, maybe my mom, but that’s about it. If there was one thing that I could bet on in this entire world, it would be that she would always love me. And I took her for granted. I was just always focused on myself and self-absorbed and I was kind of an asshole. She started to lose faith in our relationship and that woke me up to how it was and it devastated me. Not only did she not want to be in a relationship, I had been totally oblivious. I realized that I had hurt her and so . . . it fucked me up big time. It was rough. I was devastated.

So that song is kind of like, for the first time looking at someone with love, real love. The love is expressed as the desire for the best interest of the person I was singing to! If it’s not me, go find whatever that is. Even if it's not what I wanted, it's easy to be that person in a song. All you have to do is write the lyrics. It's a whole other thing to actually really feel and mean that in real life, when everything inside you is screaming, "NOOO!!" It’s a very tortured song. There’s that tension there. I don’t really want this, you know? So the song hopefully captures part of that battle.

How would you explain your music to someone who has never heard it before?
The music is about the experiences you have in life and the feelings and the wants and the desires and the hopes and the dreams that I think we all have. It’s about asking questions and searching and trying to find myself and trying to find the answers. Maybe a couple of people have the answers, but everyone has the questions. I believe in hope and I believe that going through rough times, there is also growth and healing and that’s something I talk about in music too. So it’s kind of a mix of all that.

What’s your favorite song to perform?
I think “Perfect” may be my favorite. When we play “Perfect” live, it's like a journey. Perfect might be my favorite song on the record, it’s a song about wanting to accomplish something great, wanting to prove that you’re worth something to somebody. And when we play it live, it feels powerful, and I feel like I can do something great. In the middle of the song, we do a section that is improvised. Brad, our guitarist, does a solo which is always great. I like to get lost in the moment.

I was wondering about the story behind “Rise.” I read that it was inspired by the tsunami in 2005, how so?
I heard this story about these children in Sri Lanka, maybe 7 or 8 years old, who had lost everything in the tsunami. Their families - mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters swept away, their houses completely destroyed. They were literally left alone and abandoned.They were afraid of the water, which in a small fishing village, had been the source of life. Now it was a big monster who took everything. I can’t imagine the devastation, fear, and confusion they must have felt.

There was an American psychologist there, working with the kids, having them draw four pictures. The first picture was what their houses looked like before the wave came. The second picture was what the wave looked like as it was coming - big and gnarly. The third picture was what their house looked like after the wave had hit – completely demolished . . . and the fourth picture was what they wanted their house to look like after the wave had hit. The kids were drawing that fourth picture of a new house that was bigger than the old house. They were fixing things they didn’t like in the old house, maybe a swing set in the front yard. It blew me away that in the face of such an unthinkable tragedy, when all was lost, that here was a spark, a little ray of hope shining through. How resilient is the human spirit?

And as I related it to my life, it was the idea that maybe you were happy and content or complacent in that old house. And then something comes and just knocks you off your feet. That thing you were holding onto gets ripped right out of your hands. And although you could never, ever forget what had happened to you, that somehow, mysteriously, this was now an opportunity for growth, for a bigger, improved house - a mansion.

What's the premise behind your album Citizen?
When we went to record this record we threw out all the notions of trying to appeal to one particular scene or group of people. Instead, we wanted to make a record that could communicate with everyone. We were living in a little secluded beach house on the coast in Virginia for about two months, where we got to escape the world that we were used to, and just concentrate on making the record.

When it came to the lyrics, I took a new approach to these songs, something I’d never done before. I wrote about how I felt. That sounds kind of obvious, like, what else do you write about?! But in the past, I had attempted to be clever or ironic, witty, etc. in my songs. Not that there's anything wrong with clever lyrics, but this time around, it was almost like I didn’t have the energy or the desire to do that. This time, my world was turned upside down and I couldn't do anything but write out exactly what I was feeling, no irony. I was making myself naked. And I was scared! I worried that people might think that the lyrics were dumb or too obvious, but it was all I could do at the time. I remember telling another musician friend of mine that I couldn’t be ironic or sarcastic about subject matter that I cared so much about. And he assured me that it would be ok.

And in hindsight, I believe it was ok. Because I think in music and in art, when you speak from the heart, it’s more powerful than when you speak only from the mind. You can’t escape a purely gut reaction to something. It's real. In artistic expression, for every cynical person that thinks something is silly or stupid, that same expression might change another person’s life. Citizen is a record about being a human being. It talks about the struggles, the pain, the questions, the searching. But it also talks about the other side of that struggle, where I believe there can be healing and hope, strength - like in the song “Rise.”

For more on Army of Me check out their MySpace.
Feel free to check out the concert review on MTV here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Army of Me Invades Brooklyn

D.C. rockers Army of Me played to a packed crowd Thursday night at Union Hall in Brooklyn. From the opening drum beat in “Thinking It Over” to the last note of “Perfect,” Army of Me showed nothing short of greatness during their hour-long set.

Having been constantly touring for the past few years with various bands including The Used, Blue October and the Dave Matthews Band and releasing their first full-length album, Citizen, back in April, Army of Me is definitely a band to be on the look out for. With solid vocals from frontman singer/songwriter/guitarist Vince Scheuerman and a well-blended guitar and drum sound, it’s hard to believe that a few years ago drummer Dennis Manuel hadn’t picked up a drum stick and Scheuerman never wrote a lyric.

"When Dennis and I first started talking about starting the band he didn’t even play drums and I didn’t know how to write songs. But it didn’t matter, because we were going to take over the world,” Scheuerman said. “We kind of learned as we went, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we still wanted to do it.”

From concocting their own “wheat paste” made out of flour and water to stick signs up on light poles throughout the D.C. area for their gigs, “the fliers would stay up for months and months. Everyone knew our name because you couldn’t help but see our name,” Scheuerman said, to recording their own demo and paying for tours through day jobs, Army of Me eventually landed themselves a record deal with Doghouse Records in January of 2006, soon after releasing their first full-length album, Citizen this past April.

I’m always a bit skeptical of seeing a band perform live after only hearing their album because it either makes or breaks your opinion on the band. But I have to say, Army of Me definitely blew me away. Each and every song is entirely different from the previous and Scheuerman has such an incredible stage presence that really engages the crowd. From jumping into the crowd on top of a bench in the corner of the room to constantly pointing to someone in the audience, you feel like he’s singing directly to you.

Even during some of the slower parts of a song, such as in the middle of “Still Believe in You,” Army of Me is able to capture the audience’s attention with the honesty of the lyrics and rhythm of the song. What’s even better is that when the tempo changes, the entire band can pick it right back up without missing a beat or having a strange transition.

“Meet You at the Mouth” had quite a few strong guitar riffs throughout the song as well as an amazing guitar solo from Brad Tursi. Scheuerman introduced “Rise” as being a song of healing and rebirth, getting knocked off your feet and not being sure you could get up and then getting that reassuring word from a friend and being able to get back up.

Up next was my favorite of the night, “Better Run.” Slowing things down for the night, Scheuerman started off alone on keyboard while singing solo until the rest of the band joined in halfway through the song. The song is so honest and you can just feel the heart wrenching of letting a relationship end, even though you don’t want it to. With lyrics like, “If you run at full speed and it feels good to be free/If you know it in your soul, though it’s hard to let it go/You better run, you better run,” Scheuerman got the point across.

Perhaps the crowd favorite of the night, “Going Through Changes,” had the crowd singing along. First big single for Army of Me, this song was ranked No. 3 as MTV’s most played video a while back and it’s easy to see why, the catchy chorus and rockin’ guitar driven drum beats that make up the song definitely get stuck in your head. Lyrics like, “It’s hard to accept what you don’t understand/And it’s hard to launch/without knowing how to land,” are relatable to everyone.

Last song of the night was “Perfect,” which Scheuerman said is his favorite to play. “It's like a journey. It's a song about wanting to accomplish something great, wanting to prove that you're worth something to somebody. And when we play it live, it feels powerful, and I feel like I can do something great. In the middle of the song, we do a section that is improvised. Brad, our guitarist, does a solo which is always great. I like to get lost in the moment,” he said.

And that guitar solo might have been the best of the night, adding a powerful instrumental segment before Scheuerman finished the song. Scheuerman spoke to the crowd before ending the song, saying, “I think we’re all capable of something great, something perfect. Something perfect.” I think he’s right.

Check out more photos from Wendy Hu here.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Family Holiday Album to Benefit Young Writers

Silver lights and snowflake decorations dangled from the ceiling of the lower level of The Delancey as an eager crowd gathered Wednesday for a night of live music, drink specials, giveaways and raffles. Candy canes could be found on tables for guests while candles dimly lit the room, giving it a comfortable ambiance where friends and musicians came together for the release of A Family Holiday - a holiday album where all proceeds are donated to 826NYC - a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills.

Nearly a year in the making, singer/songwriter Benjamin Wagner explained how every year he releases a Christmas song on his website. Inspired by the 1984 Band Aid song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" featuring Sting, Bono, Duran Duran, Paul Young among others who helped out and contributed to the track, all to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. A few years later, holiday album A Very Special Christmas was released, again raising money, this time for the Special Olympics, where well known musicians, including U2, Sting, and Run-D.M.C. as well as many others had a track featured on the album.

Wagner explained that the song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" had all his favorite singers on it. "Its not the greatest song on the planet, but at the time no one had ever done that before," he said. The idea and concept to release a song solely for charity was unheard of until then.

"I thought I’d get Casey, Chris Abad and Jeff Jacobson together to record "Do They Know It's Christmas" and play it on my website and was like wait, that’s not big enough lets raise some money," Wagner said. "Along the way I was like, why don’t we get everyone to chip in and do their own songs? Instead of A-list artists, its my friends. They’re A-list in my heart."

Fast forward to Wednesday night at The Delancey, a joint concert/album release party where many of the artists showcased on A Family Holiday performed a few songs of their own. Kailin Garrity started the night off with her track on the album, "Silent Night." A beautiful version with her soft vocals and guitar accentuating the song well.

Jeff Jacobson was up next, performing his song on the album, "Frosty the Snowman." Definitely a new take on the holiday classic, but very enjoyable. Other performances included El Jezel's take on "Working on Christmas" as well as Wakey! Wakey!, Wynn Walent and Seth Kallen performing his rock version of "Dreidel 2.0."

Jennifer Snow, representative of 826NYC explained that the basic premise of the organization is that writing is important, including songwriting.

The Flying Machines definitely brought a lot of energy throughout the room during their set. They had some strong guitar riffs during their performance and had the crowd screaming to "Right Around Christmas" during the well-played keyboarding and guitar intro.

Chris Abad also had a lot of energy, keeping the crowd lively throughout his set. I unfortunately missed the last act - Benjamin Wagner and his band. Being a Jersey girl and having to catch the last bus home at 11:15 is extremely frustrating at times, but lucky for me I bought the album and he filled me in on what I missed - a few of his songs, including his track on the album, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" and the joint track with all the artists performing "Do They Know It's Christmas."

Wagner explained that he was trying to provide a "think globally, act locally" concept, which is the idea he pitched to his fellow musician friends back in August. They all saw his vision and got together and recorded the album in November, which includes everyone performing "Do They Know It's Christmas" together, as well as contributing one track from each artist.

"I was trying to make the idea that we are all stronger when we work together. Everything is better when you do it with somebody else’s help. I could do something myself, but it would be 15 times better if I got 15 other people together. The whole point is to do something bigger," Wagner said.

As for the choice of album proceeds going to benefit 826NYC, Wagner explained that he is a big admirer of writer Dave Eggers, especially his memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. With the money Eggers earned from auctioning his memoir into becoming a film he started the youth literacy drop-in tutoring centers in Berkeley, Chicago and New York, eventually expanding to various locations throughout the nation.

Having been a creative writing major himself, writing matters to Wagner and he feels it's important that kids of all socio-economic backgrounds understand and develop writing skills. "It's how we communicate and express ourselves," Wagner said. "I wanted to do something local and something for kids. I wanted to do something bigger than me. Life is about meeting people and doing things together, not about doing your own thing. I just wanted to do something together with other people that I love - make the world a tiny bit better."

While currently having broke even from the production costs of the album, Wagner said his hopes are to raise $1,000-$2,000 for 826NYC.

Albums can be purchased on the MySpace site,

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Awesome News!

So I just went to the Switchfoot website and they linked my blog and concert review on the main page! Check it out here.

Also, if you haven't checked out Wendy Hu's concert photos of Switchfoot's NYC show you should! They're awesome! Photos.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Breast Cancer Benefit Concert

Statistics show that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer some time in their lives, said speaker Anna West Ott, a breast cancer survivor, at Sunday's breast cancer benefit concert. That's incredible to even imagine. At this point, everyone either knows someone directly who has struggled with breast cancer or a has heard of a friend or co-worker who knows someone who has.

Sunday's concert at Rutgers University was where many gathered, despite inclement weather, for a good cause - donating money to Sharsheret - an organization that links young Jewish women in their fight against breast cancer. Performers of the evening included Ms. Shira, a retro hip hop/burlesque singer, ShockWave, the Rutgers all-female a capella group, and the Sarah Aroeste Band, a Ladino Rock band which showcases Judeo-Spanish music, both traditional Ladino folk songs with contemporary influences.

All three performances were incredibly entertaining and so different from each other. The entire night all in attendance were kept energized, whether it was snapping along during Ms. Shira's set or dancing to some Ladino songs at the end of the night.

The first performer of the night, Ms. Shira, performed 8 songs from her album, Come to Class. Despite not having a live band and instead performing with background music, her set was very engaging as she interacted well with the audience - having them snap along to one of her songs and listen to her narration of each song throughout her performance. She explained her album as encompassing the core dynamics of love, from first meeting someone in "Get Close" to finally getting over a breakup and being on the rebound. One song, "Mischievous Lover," showcased an entirely different love dynamic and those in attendance could see the change in persona from the way she sang the song. In a way, it felt like I was watching a show because you could see the change in character in each new song she sang, each song showcasing a different aspect and feeling of falling in or out of love. Overall, Ms. Shira has very strong vocals accompanying the music with each song. While some songs have a more soulful feel, others have catchy hip-hop beats that accentuate her voice and style of singing extremely well. To get more of a taste of Ms. Shira check out her MySpace here.

The second act to perform for the night was Rutgers' own all-female a cappella group, ShockWave. I've seen varoius a capella groups perform over the years, but these ladies really blew me away. And by the crowd reaction, I wasn't the only one floored by the amazing talent this group of students had. From beat boxing to high falsetto singing, these girls didn't miss one note. They wowed the crowd with covers of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach," Nelly Furtado's "Say It Right," and most fitting for the night, Destiny's Child's "Survivor." Check them out at

Last performance of the night was headlining act, Ladino Rock band, the Sarah Aroeste Band. I never heard Ladino music before and was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. Sarah explained that Ladino is Judeo-Spanish music which is made up of a blend of Spanish, Hebrew and some other languages within each song. Despite the music being in another language, Sarah explained the story behind each song, many of which were written over 500 years ago. Just by listening to her narrative behind each song and listening to the beats and flow of the music I could understand what the song was saying which is amazing. But then again, isn't that what music should always do to its listener?

"It's amazing to me that the same topics written about back then are still written about today," Aroeste said. "Ladino rocks and a lot of people think its dying out, but we're here to tell you its not," she continued.

Members of the band played more traditional instruments, including the Flemenco guitar and the oud. Playing 11 songs for a little over an hour, the Sarah Aroeste Band brought new music and culture to Rutgers Sunday night, all in support for an important cause. I talked with Monica Rozenfeld, organizer of the benefit concert, about her inspiration behind putting together the event and I'll post that interview below.

Why did you decide to take on the task of hosting the benefit concert?
Throughout my last couple years of college, I really wanted to do some sort of volunteer project that I would feel really good about. But as we all know, we have many reasons why we can't get to it -- classes, parties, gym, etc. -- and so it just never happened. But when I graduated in May, I made a pact with myself to do the things I've always wanted to do. And so I spent two months traveling and when I got back it just felt like the right time to undertake a project that I could have fun with but also feel that I've finally given back. I had two goals in mind, 1. to get girls more involved in charity and volunteerism and 2. to raise money for a charity I cared about. And so after some brainstorming, a breast cancer benefit concert was a great way to get girls to come out and support a great cause. And while they're already there, to offer them future volunteer opportunities whether with breast cancer organizations or other organizations that were tabling at the event.

What was the process involved in getting funding for the event?
Since this was an individual project and I'm not a part of any specific organization, I didn't have any money to play with. So I really had to get the funding for this event from scratch. We received all the funding through individual donors through the help of Lee Livingston, the president of the Jewish Federation of Middlesex County. After he read the proposal I wrote up, he became very supportive of what I was trying to accomplish and then reached out to funders who all made this possible.

How did you choose the three performers and why do you feel it was important to have these performers?
I chose these performers based on the audience I was mainly hoping to attract, which is female students. I felt the performers each had a unique musical style to bring to the event and the three of them together made for a great mix for the night. Each of their styles portrayed strong, sexy and talented women and our hopes were that they would relate to the audience and show them that it can be fun to get involved. Sarah Aroeste, who was our headlining performer, is really big on her Ladino heritage and we felt she was a great spokeswoman, so to speak, on taking pride in Jewish heritage and involvement which represented two of the organizations co-sponsoring the event -- Rutgers Jewish Experience {] and Hillel.

How much money was raised?
We raised just over $700 for the night. Considering the snowy/rainy weather that day, this was a huge success for us. We are expecting to get further donations from people who couldn't make it out.

How do you feel about the concert now that it's all over?
I feel relieved. I feel really great that it got pulled off. The entire experience was just amazing. The organization we raised money for, Sharsheret, was just thrilled with the turn out and that's what makes us really happy. I met the most generous people from this experience. From the guy at a bar who saw the flyer and said he couldn't make it but gave us a $20 donation, to all the strangers who saw my vision and chose to help support me in it, to the woman who called me when she said she heard about the event and would like to donate hand-crafted jewelery for the cause. This concert opened me up to this new world where people care. I've made some amazing friends through the process that will be my friends beyond this project. This experience, as frustrating as it might have been at times, gives me motivation to step even further from my box and see what else I can do.

I will add that whatever the reason people came out for the concert, they all should feel really good about themselves. Even if it was for the band, or because I made them, or because they had nothing better to do, they each did something great by supporting the event and I hope they went away with the feeling that they too did something for charity. I have to add a special thanks to all the volunteers and friends who came out and helped! Everyone just showed how amazing they are and it's all to help strangers with this disease that we might not ever understand why it happens to anyone, but it does, and we each some how helped.

If anyone is interested in donating to breast cancer organizations, go to and

To learn more about the projects/organizations Monica is involved in, contact her at

Saturday, December 1, 2007

November Recap/December Picks

While I'm still getting adjusted to the whole blogging thing I'm trying to start a few topics to follow through with each month, such as a monthly "recap" that I'll hopefully post at the end or beginning of each month as well as monthly "picks"or suggestions for an upcoming month. Here's a recap of some cool things that went on in the month of November:

Pandora Radio
Sometimes I feel like I've been living under a rock. To pass the time at work I've been listening to music. Anything from various YouTube videos to listening to random HD radio stations that stream online. However, there are only so many radio stations you can listen to throughout the day and I haven't figured out how to play continuous music on YouTube yet. A bunch of the people I work with kept talking about Pandora radio and I had no clue what they were talking about, so I decided to check it out. And let me tell you - it's the coolest thing ever! I mean, iPods are great and everything, but how many times have you listened to the same songs? With Pandora you just type in an artist and it comes up with all this music that is similar to that artist and continuously plays it for you and you can skip to the next song if you don't like it. However, if you do like the song just click the thumbs up sign so the player knows to play it again at a later point. I tried a bunch of different artists and got a pretty interesting combination of songs to listen to throughout the day. Music really makes the day go by so much quicker, I think it helps with the stress too. Pandora just added classical music to their collection as well as a variety of holiday tunes to listen to. Just go to to check it out and see for yourself.

Paste Magazine
For two weeks this month, Paste Magazine let readers decide how much they wanted to pay for a one-year subscription. This idea is unheard of in the magazine world, but thanks to Radiohead's recent success with letting fans pay whatever they decided for their recent album, Paste thought, why not give it a try? I'm sure they'll be seeing an increase in subscriptions. I just subscribed. Check out the article here.

New York Women in Communications
I went to a talk this month at the Hearst Tower with Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines, hosted by New York Women in Communications. I've attended one other event which featured Jancee Dunn, former Rolling Stone writer and MTV 2 veejay who discussed her book, "But Enough About Me, A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous." Attending these events really inspires me to keep writing and do what I love. Jancee, especially, was so great because I admire her and aspire to become a writer like her one day. Cathie was so great to listen to because it seems like she really is able to handle such a major responsibility - overseeing so many magazines as well as have a healthy family and social life. She talked about her book, "Basic Black," described as the essential guide for getting ahead at work and in life.

It seems as if every month the albums released get better and better. Two of my favorites just released are Alicia Keys' As I Am and Jon Foreman of Switchfoot's Fall. They both fall more into the easy listening, which I think everyone needs to listen to just to unwind and forget about all the stressful things in life.

Bands Making a Difference
I don't know if this section will be in every month's post but I really hope it is. This month I was blown away by Switchfoot, Relient K and Ruth's efforts in giving back to their communities. Not only did these three bands donate $1 from every ticket sold on their fall "Appetite for Construction" tour to Habitat for Humanity - raising well over $67,000 - but they also went out on Habitat builds throughout various tour stops, building alongside homeowners and fans that decided to join Habitat and help out. I was lucky enough to chat with Chad and Jon from Switchfoot and they are definitely some of the nicest and most down to earth guys in the music industry today. Their entire crew and fan base are just something special that bands should look up to and epitomize.

December Picks
There are a bunch of great concerts coming up this December - 3 of which are happening just next week that I think everyone should consider going to.

Sharsheret Breast Cancer Benefit Concert
Sunday, December 2
Multipurpose Room, Rutgers Student Center
College Ave. Campus, New Brunswick, NJ
7:30-10:30 p.m.

My friend Monica is putting on a benefit concert and helping raise money for Sharsheret, a national breast cancer organization. It will be a night of live music by female performers including Rutgers' very own all-female acappella group Shockwave, Hip Hop/Alternative performer Shira, and headlining the show, Ladino artist Sarah Aroeste. Ticket prices are $5 for students and $12 for the public, and are a minimum donation to Sharsheret.

New York Musicians Release Benefit Holiday Album
Wednesday, December 5
The Delancey
168 Delancey St, NY
8 p.m. -12 a.m.

Just in time for the holidays, The Delancey will be hosting a holiday album release party next Wednesday. All proceeds from album, A Family Holiday, will be donated to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and helping teachers inspire their students to write.

The night will include performances from some of the artists showcased on the album as well as feature DJ sets from Hot Rocks' Jenny Piston and Underrated Magazine's Rachael Darmanin.

Singer/songwriter Benjamin Wagner began the project with the help of Family Records. Albums can be purchased the night of the release party or on the MySpace site, There is no cover charge.

Army of Me with Liam and Me
Thursday, December 6
Union Hall
702 Union St., Brooklyn, NY
Doors open: 8 p.m. Show: 9 p.m.
Tickets $10

D.C. rockers Army of Me will be hitting up New York Thursday night playing some of their old fan favorites as well as songs from their debut album, Citizen. You may recognize their single, "Going Through Changes," from being featured on various MTV shows. Check out their MySpace page for more of their sound.


Share your links easily.