Local Music

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By Frank Meyers (Opinion Nation)

So, April has come and gone already. Let’s take a look back and see what Youngstown had going on. I can tell you that good times rolled and the beers flowed. It was a bit of a slower month in the way of shows for this guy here. With that being said, the shows I did make it out to where all awesome.

One of the highlights of April for me was getting to see the Guilty Pleasures at Cedars on Good Friday. This is a group that I completely enjoy watching and listening to. It is made up of some older yet still very entertaining musicians from Youngstown and surrounding areas. Although there set is made up of cover songs, they still have a passion and love for what they are doing up on the stage, and you can feel a sense of gratitude between the band and all the fans that come out to their shows. You may not be getting the thundering, fast paced, take no prisoner style that many of the younger local bands are bringing to stage nowadays, but there is nothing wrong with a fun, laid back, live in the moment type of show from time to time, and the Guilty Pleasures are definitely the ones who will give you that.

Also in April, we had the return of White Cadillac to the stage for their first show of 2014.They made their return at the Royal Oaks with guest The Whiskey Daredevils. There was definitely a great turnout for this one as White Cadillac made sure the fans remembered why they have been waiting so eagerly to see them live again. These guys own not only the stage, but the entire venue when they show up and start to play. Just watching the crowd interaction and feedback you would think you were at a stadium show to see one of the great metal bands from the 80’s or something. Hard not to have a good time.

A very appreciated change of pace came later in April when Cedars hosted Penguins in Bondage: The YSU Frank Zappa Ensemble. The second time seeing this and it was just as good if not better than the first. Would have never thought that I would enjoy anyone doing covers of Frank Zappa songs, especially a college ensemble. Well, lets just say that those thoughts were silenced very quickly. This was a great night with a very diverse crowd of people attending. There was the young crowd in their band t-shirts and jeans, drinking their cheap beers while listening to some great music. Then the other part of the crowd was the older more mature part with their dress clothes and glasses of wine. Sitting idly at the bar enjoying the show from a distance. Not that there is anything wrong with either, it is actually quite refreshing and in some ways a testament to the diversity in the Youngstown music scene.

These are just the highlights of the shows I was able to attend in April. There were other things that took place in April such Chapless Larry at Chippers Sports Bar which I heard was a great show. I know Amnesty for Astronauts played in Fernengels in Salem with Days Before Empires, and I can only imagine how great that must have been. Also, I know Steven and the Damned had a show or two I was unable to make. Along with others that I am sure were great shows. Unfortunately you can’t make them all.

May is now here and some stuff to keep your eye out for: May 10 at Cedars The Spastic Hearts, Turbo Lovers, and special guest from Chicage Voice of Addiction. May 10 at Crawlspace Amnesty for Astronauts and Pilot the Mind May 16 at Cedars Baroque Monody, Pilot the Mind, and Harnessing the Sun Just a few, be sure to pay attention for other dates in the near future.

The Days Before Empires, left to right Devon Arend, Brad Witherstine and Billy Page. Photo courtesy of the band's official Facebook page.

The Days Before Empires, left to right Devon Arend, Brad Witherstine and Billy Page. Photo courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As the seeming endless pool of unique original talent continues to pour out of every corner of the MahoningValley, one trio is bringing the raw intensity of unrefined punk rock to the forefront.

The Days Before Empires, a new-to-the-scene three-piece punk outfit hailing from the likes of Salem, Ohio, is stripping it back to the bare bones of rock and roll. Consisting of Guitarist Brad Witherstine, bassist Billy Page and drummer Devon Arend, the trio take a simple yet powerful approach to their music. And while most major rock acts are racing to the controls of Auto Tune and ProTools, these Northeast Ohio punks just want to make pure, unfiltered rock and roll.

“We want to bring the raw energy of rock and punk back into focus,” said leader singer and guitarist Brad Witherstine.

Taking influence from Americana-punk act The Gaslight Anthem, contemporary punk masters Against Me! and Hot Water Music, and classics like Black Sabbath and Bruce Springsteen, The Days Before Empires look to make real music with a real message. Much like those whom they draw inspiration, the band have a knack for sonic blasts of energy with substance. Rather than worrying about what exactly it is to be punk in today’s musical climate, the band focuses on delivering powerful and heart felt anthems.

“It has to come from the heart. That’s where the best art begins, from the heart,” said Witherstine.

“Anything that really goes against the norm, that’s punk rock. Going your own way and doing things your way,” added Page.

Formed in 2011 by Witherstine, the band has evolved out of several incarnations and lineups. Witherstine and Page spent the next few years finding their sound. After parting ways with their founding drummer, the group’s final lineup was rounded out with Arend slamming behind the kit. As stated on the band’s official Facebook page:

“Arend brings a tight and aggressive drumming style to the mix.”

These points are proven with the bands live performances. Songs like “Holding Ground” and “Something In the Night” deliver the intensity of punk in a manner like that of Social Distortion, with thought-provoking lyrics that echo Against Me! On “Radio Streets,” a Gaslight Anthem-meets-Springsteen fist-pumper is employed, indicating that band’s capability of captivity it’s audience.

With a unique blend of originals and adapted covers, The Days Before Empires have already begun their assault on the scene. With highly anticipated live performances schedules for Chipper’s in Austintown, Ohio on March 15 and Fernengels Tavern in Salem, Ohio in Aoril, the buzz is continuing to build for the these new comer punks. However, as those who’ve witnessed their fury in the flesh, The Days Before Empires never disappoint.

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Amnesty for Astronauts. Left to right, guitarist/vocalist Josh Green, vocalist Alyson Byerly, guitarist Chris Byerly, drummer Joe Carbon and bassist Sam Silsbe. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Amnesty for Astronauts. Left to right, guitarist/vocalist Josh Green, vocalist Alyson Byerly, guitarist Chris Byerly, drummer Joe Carbon and bassist Sam Silsbe. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

The northeast Ohio music scene is a bona fide breeding ground for innovative and unique local talent. Each year, another crop of new artists and projects emerges, continually turning the scene on its side. With a sound consisting of soaring melodic guitars, spacey atmospheric noise and a dual vocal attack, it’s no doubt that Youngstown, Ohio’s Amnesty for Astronauts is poised to be the next standout act of the area.

Like a handful of the area’s current acts, Amnesty for Astronauts consists of veteran musicians coming together from former big name acts. From the infectious grooves of drummer Joe Carbon (ex-Slander, Moral Dilemma) and bassist Sam Silsbe (ex-Erin’s Vineyard), to the gigantic riffs of guitarists Chris Byerly (ex-Relic, Moral Dilemma) and Josh Green, to the dual vocals of Green and Alyson Byerly, the band is solid through and through.

The band said that like most projects, it began naturally through friendships, mutual admiration and the love of music.

“It started out as a few friends getting together jamming in a basement. They called me up and asked, ‘Hey, you want to join the project?'” said Silsbe.

“Joe and I have played together for 18 years now. I was in his first band with Aly, so that’s where our roots are. Joe and I continued to jam ever since,” added Chris Byerly.

Formed over a year and a half ago, the band began to incessantly evolve. With the final addition of Alyson last summer, the sound had officially became solidified.

“With the addition of Aly a couple of months ago, we decided to bring in another singer and really turn it up a notch,” said Carbon.

With a wide pallet of influences, the band effectively blend their eclectic tastes into a unique and fresh sound that is unlike any on the area’s scene. Fusing the dynamic of The Pixies and early Radiohead with thumping grooves and a Hum-meets-Helmet slam of guitars, Amnesty for Astronauts successfully spans the broad spectrum of alternative rock. Evident on tracks such as the soaring “Miss Perfection” and the dream-like “Counting Sheep,” their sound provides no limitations.

“We get in arguments about what we sound like. We don’t really want to stick to a certain genre. And it’s helping us write songs. Every week we’re writing a song. It might sound something completely different than the last one we wrote, but it’s still something we like,” said Green.

“It makes you more versatile. The more you listen to, the more opportunities you have to be inspired,” added Alyson Byerly.

While consistently finding inspiration, the band have not only been pushing themselves forward artistically, but stressing the importance of building their name in unique and entertaining ways. For their first live performance, the band have been hitting the streets for promotion with a flyer resembling a moon-landing reported on the front page of The New York Times.

“You need to show your passion for what you’re doing to people. You can convince people to like what you’re doing if they see how much you like it. Facebook is very impersonal. I think getting out there and meeting the people, that’s what music is all about,” said Carbon.

Amnesty for Astronauts officially takes flight on Saturday, Nov. 23 with their first mission taking place at Chipper’s in Austintown, Ohio for a FREE show alongside Skull’Rz Bane and New Diaries. Exclusive live tracks can be streamed via their Reverb Nation page by clicking here.

Harnessing the Sun live. Left to right, bassist Tom Fratilla, drummer Loren Butz and singer/guitarist Douglas Roberts. Photo courtesy of the band's official Facebook page

Harnessing the Sun live. Left to right, bassist Tom Fratilla, drummer Loren Butz and singer/guitarist Douglas Roberts. Photo courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Amidst the array of smoke-drenched biker bars and competing classic rock tribute acts that dominate most of the Western-Pennsylvania nightlife, a soulful and hard-rocking power trio has emerged to take the reigns and lead the pack.

Harnessing the Sun, a relatively new three-piece rock and roll unit from the Sharon, Pennsylvania area, burst onto the scene this year with their debut album, Sun Signs.

Consisting of the emotionally matured lyrics and driving riffs of singer and guitarist Doulas Roberts, and the groove-heavy rhythm section of bassist Tom Fratilla and drummer Loren Butz, Harnessing the Sun are a power trio unlike any other witnessed in rock music in nearly 25 years.

The band members have individually been hammering away in separate projects for years, paying their dues and crafting their art. But as of last year, the stars aligned when they joined forces to form Harnessing the Sun.

“We won’t name the establishment, but the three of us have all worked at the same place,” said Roberts. “Tom and Loren began jamming with a couple other guys, but once I stopped going to college, I kinda butted my way in I guess.

“He got roped into it,” joked Butz.

After more than a year’s worth of work perfecting their sound, the band was ready to unleash Sun Signs onto the world. The album kicks off with the upbeat rockers “That’s Right” and “Love You to Death,” before leading into the thought-provoking and inspiring track, “Drop Your Weapons.” From there, the old-fashioned amped-up blues ballad “Whiskey and Smoke” tells a tale almost everyone can relate to at one point or another; job loss and shady folks. The story is told with such soulful swagger and straight-up rocking riffs, the listener immediately takes notice to the range of passion Harnessing the Sun provides.

Another key track on Sun Signs is the bittersweet “Life is Good.” Not exactly a chipper tune, nor is it depressing, but simply real.

“There’s a slight bit of sarcasm in there, but a good dose of reality. We’re forced every day with advertising, it’s shoved down our throat from every angle, whether it’s political or standard advertising to increase commerce. The ramifications of religious advertising are overwhelming. It’s in our face everywhere we turn. You have to make a stand, find your own ground and realize life is good,” said Roberts.

From there, Sun Signs concludes with the up-tempo groovy rocker “Fools” and the energetic “Sea of Madness.”

All in all, Sun Signs is a very concise piece of music, with a wide assortment of emotions in a way similar of the Beatles with The White Album. The songs are all over the place in terms of themes and emotions, yet they’re all there at some point; anger, distress, joy, sorrow and sarcasm. Likewise is the experience of being alive. Life is random, consisting of all said emotions. And life is good.

Harnessing the Sun have also proven themselves a force to be reckoned with in terms of their live performance. The energy and passion of Sun Signs only amplifies when the band plays live. Their captivating live shows around the Youngstown area have began to build a strong buzz for the band, leaving fans wanting more.

“We love what we do and we try to kick ass doing it,” said Fratilla.

Harnessing the Sun will be performing in Youngstown on Nov. 1 at Papa’s Sports Grille alongside Idle Shades and Dakota Spells Disaster. Sun Signs is available on iTunes and can be purchased by clicking here.