Jack White Strikes Again

“Missing Pieces,” the lead track on Jack White’s new album, expresses a theme of people taking a piece of you when they leave.  Now, after a career of giving more than just a piece of himself to a variety of musical efforts, White gives us all he has to offer on “Blunderbuss.”

For an artist who has been praised for so long on an individual level, it’s hard to imagine that White hasn’t released a solo album until now.  The beauty of “Blunderbuss” is that it takes his identifiable sound that has made so many albums whole and puts it on stripped-down, solitary display.

After breaking ground with The White Stripes for over a decade, White moved on to The Dead Weather, a darker, raunchier concoction that alludes to the old days of metal with a bluesy twist.  Along the way happened The Raconteurs, adding to the trifecta of White’s success as a freelance rock ‘n’ roll icon.

“Blunderbuss” further solidifies White’s place in modern history, as he continues to spin his unique blend of downhome blues and straight-ahead Detroit rock.  “Sixteen Saltines,” one of three singles from the album, brings the heavy-handed energy of a wide open Stripes-esque guitar riff.  Much of the album, however, makes use of piano, conjuring up a ballad-like feel on songs like “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep.”  Interesting things happen when these ends of the spectrum collide, whether it’s the slick segue of “Take Me with You When You Go” or the argumentatively-layered solos in “Weep Themselves to Sleep.”

With a name that alludes to a short predecessor of the shotgun, one might have expected a somewhat more eccentric collection of songs, considering the heaviness of White’s work with The Dead Weather.  Rather, the theme of the album’s first single, “Love Interruption,” suggests a more intimate weapon of choice, with White describing a type of love that will “stick a knife inside me and twist it all around.”  This is indicative of the type subversive darkness that seems to be something of a signature for him and is especially prevalent in the music video for “Sixteen Saltines,” which features a group of children in blue paint artfully executing his elaborate death.

Jack White’s type of blunderbuss may not be as violent as the real thing, but it is nonetheless a thing of power, just in a deliberate, blues-rock fashion.  As with nearly everything that this evolving artist gets his hands on, “Blunderbuss” creates an instant anticipation to see what’s next.



My “Return to Paradise”: SAM SPARRO Concert Review

By Tabby Hardman

It was Tuesday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel in northeast D.C.—the night Sam Sparro rocked my world.

Having been a fan of the electro-funk/soul musician since 2008 when his award-winning single, “Black and Gold,” was released—I could not believe I was about to be in the same venue as my all-time favorite artist.

Hesitantly walking into the music club with my best friend Victoria (also a Sam Sparro fan), we found ourselves in a  dark, wood room with small, neon-lit stage.  There were mirrors lining the walls and people scattered around anxiously waiting.

After 20 minutes of chit-chat with Victoria and some serious people watching, the opening act, Big Bright, walked on stage.  As many typically assume with opening acts, I was anticipating a disaster act—however, I was pleasantly surprised by the upbeat, dance music they played and how they really hyped the crowd up for Sam’s pending performance.

Gyrating around and grooving to their beats I yearned to see the main show—Sam.

Once the opening act finished up and said their thank you’s, I realized it was show time.  About 15 minutes after the first act left, Sam’s crew started setting up.

And 15 minutes after that—Sam entered the building.

Strutting on stage like the Australian stallion he is, I just about dropped to the floor.  After four years of undying love and support for his music, the man himself was before me.

Clad in slacks, a tucked in t-shirt, form-fitting beige blazer, and sporting a Freddie Mercury-inspired mustache and haircut—he looked hot.

He started with some of his new tunes from his yet-to-be-released album “Return to Paradise.” Sam got the crowd rocking with the funky “Shallow End,” the sultry, sexy “Let the Love In,” and the upbeat “Happiness.”

Sam then transitioned into a couple oldies, of which he blended into one—“Sick” and “Pocket” from his first self-titled album which was released in 2008.

By this point the show was rolling.  There was sweat dripping, feet jumping, and arms flailing.

The previously empty dance floor was a sea of faces awestruck by Sam’s unbelievable stage presence. His velvety voice resonated throughout the whole room and sounded so perfect you could have thought he was playing a backtrack and mouthing the words.

Sam continued to showcase some of his newer songs like the relatable “Wish I Never Met You” and then it happened.  The moment that changed my life…

Switching vibes into his most famous tune “Black and Gold,” the song that drew me to him to begin with—the crowd went insane.  It became a sing-a-long between Sam and everyone in the audience who knew all the lyrics, me included.

In that moment of pure bliss I reached my hand up along with the other six people around me in the hopes he may just grab my right hand—and he grabbed it.

I was shocked. A tear filled my eye and I realized how lucky I was to be in that room, with all those people, sharing a love for someone who really understands what music is.

Sam closed the show with a combination of an oldie “21st Century Life,” a funky and soulful jam, and then blended that into “Gypsy Woman” (She’s Homeless), a cover he did of the song originally by Crystal Waters which is an old ‘house’ tune.

Throwing himself into the audience as the grand finale, Sam showed his fans his appreciation for their love and support by crowd surfing.

It was magical.

I couldn’t have pictured a better show, between the intimacy of the venue, the band, the back-up singers, the crowd, and of course—Sam Sparro himself.

And, you know, he did hold my hand. Briefly.

All I can say is, Sam, when will you be back?













A Night of Russian Music

By Karina Schultheis

On Monday, Feb. 30, dozens of people waited outside in the halls of George Mason‘s Harris Theatre. The scene comprised of a truly eclectic mix of individuals. Students, sporting Mason hoodies and jeans, talked animatedly with each other while laughing intermittently. Well-dressed young adults looking as if they just came from the office spoke softly to one another – clearly taking advantage of the free event.  Others wore gowns and suits, holding bouquets of red roses, looking as nervous as if  they were about to perform on stage –  instead of whoever they had brought the flowers for.

Mason’s School of Music holds their “Faculty Artist Series” in February showcasing the talent of its world-renowned teachers. Tonight Dr. Anna Balakerskaia, a Russian pianist who moved to the United States more than 20 years ago, will be performing five acclaimed Russian songs alongside eight other musicians. The theme of the recital is “Anna and Friends: A Night of Russian Music.”

Balakerskaia is no stranger to the stage. She has performed in dozens of recitals and competitions, and her concert tours have taken her from Belgium to Argentina (AND eight other countries). She has played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center.

“I have had my opportunity to alter the world,” she said. ” Now I get to help my students change it.”

She is most proud of her performances in Moscow, where she played in the International Tchaikovsky Competitions and was thrice awarded the Best Accompaniment Diploma on three separate occasions.

“The talent we have in our rooms is exceptional,” Balakerskaia said, referring to the students she teaches within the School of Music.

“Anna and Friends” is not just about Anna, although her pianist abilities would easily console an impatient crowd. She was joined by three violinists (two of which were Mason students), a viola player, a cello player, a clarinet player, another pianist, and a bassoon player — fellow Doctorate of Music Arnold Irachi.

The recital spanned from 8 p.m. until nearly 11 and included the world premiere of “Mikhnovsky,” which Balaerskaia composed.

After the lengthy performance, students hugged and dispersed. Those in work attire made their way to the exits. The best-dressed individuals, still holding their bouquets, waited once more outside the hall. But this time, they looked neither impatient nor nervous. They were smiling, waiting to congratulate their special someones.

Madonna has crossed the border line this time

By Samita Mason

The Material Girl is back — and trying something new. Which, may not be a good thing.

MDNA, is Madonna’s 12th album — it’s a two-disk set of 17 songs  — some of which feels as if you should be in a club waving around glow sticks while you listen.

If you missed Madonna’s Super Bowl half time show — and haven’t had a chance to download the disc which dropped March 26 — the music video for hit single “Give Me All Your Luvin” has a football theme. Rappers Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. are featured prancing around in cheerleader uniforms shaking pom poms.

Half of the tracks on the album sound as if they have been remixed for a Saturday night in downtown Atlanta. The other half sound painful and awful.

A typical Madonna fan remembers hit songs such as “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Like a Prayer” where the queen of pop actually sang songs. In MDNA, fans are either hearing auto tuning or a Madonna voice that has aged along with her.

Madonna may have fans confused when they listen to her current album all the way through.  Some tracks made me  want to cringe. Others made me wonder how and why she went from her popular songs like “True Blue” to a deejay dance mix. But, a few of the slower songs had me singing at the top of my lungs in the car.

These new songs may make the average fan want to turn the volume down on their speakers. Her voice is scratchy, low and off pitch. Not the Madonna I remember.

Madonna released her first CD in 1983. Almost 20 years later, she is still attempting to sing and perform like she did when she was in her 30s. In her current album, lyrics such as “you shot my lover in the head,” or  “I’m a sinner, I like it that way” can be heard. She does get points for working hard, raising a family and releasing new music for her fans. But as a 53-year-old woman, she would look classier if she dumped the skimpy clothing.

Madonna should have stuck with her pop genre that she knows and what got her to where she is today. She sounds like she is trying to compete with the younger generation and it is not working. Stick with what you know and what you are good at Madonna.

Simone and the Spectrum

By: Donovan Taylor Hall

Simone Sattler has been a singer-songer writer since she was born.

“I feel like I could sing before I could actually form sentences, she says. “I’m pretty sure I made up songs in baby talk.”

The 21-year-old senior majoring in music grew up in Manassas, Va. where she started playing piano and formally writing music when she was 12.

“Singing is therapeutic,” she says. “I can sing through anything. Through my music I am able to say things I normally wouldn’t.”

During her time at mason she has been focusing on the basics, learning how to sing classical songs.

“But my heart is with singing my own songs,” she says. “Songwriting will always be my passion, no matter where I go or what I do.”

Her band, Simone and the Spectrum, got together last September and having been playing local bars and venues such as Fat Tuesdays, Iota, and Water’s Edge. On top of that, they have performed at a few house parties.

“Her performing is so personal and intimate,” says Elizabeth Bergin, a senior studying Art History, who has seen Sattler play several times at Fat Tuesdays. “I love hearing her jam out with her band, she really gets into it. You can tell she loves singing in front of people.”

While she wants to be a professional singer, Sattler insists that no matter what, she wants to stay herself.

“I don’t like the idea of fame,” she says. “I would never want to not know who my friends are, I always want to stay true.”

As for her future in music, Sattler plans to pursue her dream as long as she lives.

To check out more on Simone & the Spectrum you can go to their Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simone-the-Spectrum/138860239545643?sk=info.

You can also hear her EP at:


Taking the Mic on Their Own Volition

By Daniel A. Shyti

Before Monday, March 5, I didn’t know very much about Volition, GMU’s art and literary magazine.  To be completely honest, I didn’t even know we had one.  But with events like last Monday’s open-mic night, the magazine staffers are hoping to change that.

“We’re trying to revamp our image,” said Hannah Wing, 21, a junior biology major and co-editor in chief of the Magazine.  “Really, we want to let people know who we are, considering we don’t even have much of an image to begin with.”

Volition tried hosting an open-mic night last year, but only four people attended and they were all on the magazine staff.  This year’s event, however, brought in approximately 50 people to hear original music, prose, and poetry.

After last year’s failure, the staff worked really hard to draw a crowd. Co-editor-in-chief Katherine Morgenegg says that in addition to promoting it on their blog and Facebook page — they made flyers, did commercials on GMU’s radio station and the school’s cable network — and they put an ad in the Broadside.

A variety of acts shared the Johnson Center Bistro stage, from bedroom poets and guitar pluckers to rehearsed musical acts like Scary Mercedes. Now, the magazine is already planning another event.

“We’ve really wanted to do a slam poetry competition,” said Katherine, 20, a junior majoring in Russian Language and Creative Writing. “We kind of gave the idea a test drive with the open-mic night.  We’ll definitely have more events like this in the future.”

Volition is planning to print their 13th volume this Spring.  If you would like to contribute to the magazine, submit your original work to volition@gmu.edu by April 4.  Submission details can be found at volitionmagazine.onmason.com.

Jordan Baird: George Mason’s Own American Idol?

By: Rebecca Offenkrantz

The name, Jordan Baird, probably doesn’t sound very familiar to you. The junior, majoring in Vocal Performance, transferred to Mason in the Fall of 2011.

Baird was one of three walk-ons for our men’s basketball team, but, while he’s not been on the court much yet — he has spent a lot of time on stage singing.

Baird tried out for American Idol in 2009 at the Orlando auditions. He made it to the top 40 singers at that specific audition but was never on camera; he subsequently got cut in the next round.

But he didn’t give up. When Simon Cowell started his new show X-Factor, Baird auditioned and made it to the top 80 participants at the Seattle tryouts before getting cut.

Baird was asked to sing the National Anthem at the George Mason University’s Homecoming game versus Old Dominion University on Saturday, February 4th. Facebook and Twitter exploded following his performance, Washington Post reporter Steven Goff tweeted:

Goff goes as far as to call Baird’s performance ‘flawless’ in the above tweet. ‘This video shows Jordan performing at the Homecoming game.

When asked if he had any plans to compete on any other show, Baird replied, “I think I might be finished with Idol, but I might do X-Factor again. The one I am really looking into is The Voice… after basketball is over, whenever that may be.”


TEN$ION in the Air

By Daniel A. Shyti

Their aesthetic is unmistakable: bedecked with gold chains, smeared in filth from head to toe, and covered with mice, insects, or anything else that might make you want to turn away.  When you see Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer”) for the first time, it is obvious that this is not rap culture as we know it in the west.  Their trashy-but-flashy culture is known as “Zef” in their native South Africa.

The bar was set high in 2010, when their music videos exploded across the internet.  “Enter the Ninja” became an instant sensation, in which Yolandi Vi$$er’s pixie-esque chorus bookends Ninja’s (Watkin Tudor Jones) sublimely personal rhymes.  They followed this with the controversial “Evil Boy,” riddled with phallic imagery and protesting a cultural circumcision ritual.  Despite their tongue-in-cheek presence, Die Antwoord quickly established itself as a force to be taken seriously.

On February 7, the group officially dropped its second full-length album, TEN$ION.  Following a dispute with Interscope, Die Antwoord decided to release the album on their own label to avoid the pressure of a major record company being involved in the production of their music.

TEN$ION represents another step forward for Die Antwoord, regardless of whatever administrative issues they may be facing.  The enigmatic DJ Hi-Tek (who chooses to remain unidentified) produces bigger beats than ever to supplement their new self-described “rap/rave” angle.  Their club-ready single “I Fink U Freeky” features an over-the-top synth hook reminiscent of Mortal Kombat.  However, after an awkward lull of a couple actual songs pockmarked by skits and interludes, you’ll likely find yourself in a post-rave kandy sugar crash.  But round three brings redemption: Yolandi pulls no punches on “Baby’s On Fire,” with a flow that would satiate any hip-hop fanatic.  Again, this track couldn’t be more danceable if it came with its own smoke machine.


Another forgettable track segues into that other single of theirs, “Fok Julle Naaiers” (translates essentially to “fuck all y’all”).  This one serves as nothing short of a showdown between Die Antwoord and the rest of the world, and it’s not looking too good for everyone else.  Another haunting, droning chorus from Yolandi paves the way for a menacing fury of nut flexing; the kind that only Ninja can deliver over a slow-paced beat that makes you look over your shoulder.

But wait, did we just listen to an entire Die Antwoord album without any controversy?  Of course not, because “Fok Julle Naaiers” plays out into a menacing final verse from DJ Hi-Tek himself, which borrows its content from Mike Tyson’s infamous response to a heckler who suggested that Tyson deserves a straightjacket.  Ninja, however, released an internet video explaining that the homophobic slurs used in this hate-filled mantra are acceptable, because Hi-Tek himself his homosexual.  He also believes that “maybe you guys in the USA can learn a little thing or two from your brothers and sisters here in the dark depths of Africa,” because he claims that discrimination based on race and sexual preference are mostly a thing of the past in South African culture.

While the album may have a few seams from start to finish, the gems make up for its less imaginative tracks.  Like most rappers, Ninja and Yolandi spend most of their verses telling you how tough they are or how great they are at rapping, but their ability to present their lifestyle with a sense of fashion and nuance makes TEN$ION worth more than a few listens.  Ultimately, Die Antwoord refused to compromise with the evolution of their sound, which is more than most artists can say about their own attempts and following up a behemoth international debut.

“Rise Against” Rocks Patriot Center

by Karina Schultheis

There was a lot of screaming, yelling, and fist-pumping on Super Bowl Sunday — but fans at the Patriot Center weren’t losing their mind cheering for the Giants or the Patriots — they were screaming for the rock band, Rise Against.

Ending their 46-city tour, the band’s four-hour concert kicked off with up-and-coming band The Menzingers, an energetic group of four young men with impressive musical abilities. They put on a fantastic performance and their song lyrics were incredibly mature for a group that looked too young to even buy a beer at their own show.

Next came A Day to Remember, who did not rely on their already-popular hard rock songs to make the crowd cheer. They rallied the stadium by jumping wildly on (and off) stage, dropping thousands of balloons from the ceiling, and throwing beach balls and toilet paper into the audience. At one point, as a way to get the fans in the seats as energetic as those on the floor, lead singer Jeremy McKinnon told all of the men in the audience to take off their shirts and swing them ’round. Half-naked, screaming men quickly took over the  Patriot Center.

Despite the popularity of ADTR, there was palpable anticipation in the auditorium as the minutes ticked closer to Rise Against’s performance. The band certainly did not disappoint, playing favorites from the past decade including “Swing Life Away” (circa 2005), “Prayer of the Refugee” and “Ready to Fall.” Of course, they also threw in an assortment of songs off their new album “Endgame” during their two and a half hour set.

youtube] Rise Against’s powerful song lyrics and energetic guitar solos have kept them on the top of music charts since their 2001 signing. However, the band also sets itself apart from other rock bands by their insistence on making social and political statements, most notably their disapproval of the war. Many of their songs have clear anti-war and anti-discrimination messages disguised as Top 40 chart-toppers. An entire segment of their website is dedicated to activism.

During the concert, four LED screens onstage flashed images of Occupy Wall Street camps, faces from many different nationalities, and children wrapped in the American flag. Main singer Tim McIlrath shouted out to representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who were present and handing out literature after the show.

Some of these messages might have been lost on part of the audience, which included masses of middle- and high-school students (as well as a sprinkling of parents with earplugs). They might not have even recognized the videos and photos as being from Occupy Wall Street, or if they did, have a working knowledge of what the movement is about. What these fans did recognize, however, were the lyrics to all the songs and the names of the artists as “Marry me, Tim!” signs waved in the air.

The night completed with a setlist of four acoustical songs and a 15-minute encore performance. Surveying the faces of the audience as people piled out of the auditorium and into the streets, it looked as if the only people who were not enjoying their night were the people about to clean up after it.

There was a lot of balloons and toilet paper to be dealt with, after all.

Local Producer Adds Own Sound to the Mix

Above: Scary Mercedes at the Herndon ArtSpace (August 13, 2011)

By Daniel A. Shyti

Martin Bonica spent last summer interning abroad for a left-wing Israeli radio station, “Kol Hashalom” (translated to “All for Peace”).  His contribution to the station included his own personal show, web upkeep, and his entire collection of albums by Rage Against the Machine.

About six years ago, he started appearing a shows wearing a distinctive white lab coat.  He recorded one of his first live sets at the Sterling Community Center for now-defunct metal group Condemned to Destruction, and in 2007 he added multiple video cameras to his arsenal.  He created his first full-on media packages for local experimental-funk quartet Orange Marmalade.

“Once I started recording shows I began to realize, ‘Oh, this is art,’ says Bonica, a 21-year-old history major at George Mason University. ” I didn’t know I was good at art.”

Since then, he has worked with many artists in the Metro area, including  In Alcatraz 1962, Cazador, and Broken Cartridge.  Fall 2010, he was hired to be Director of Audio Engineering for WGMU Radio.

He continued with audio and video production until January 2011, after Orange Marmalade played  their last show at Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, Va.  Bonica then focused on his own project called Scary Mercedes, a new wave hodgepodge with various contributors and influences.

“Starting in 2010, the local music scene imploded on itself.  Recording was my main hobby until there was nothing to record, so I just started making my own music,” he says.  “Basically, I started Scary Mercedes because I’m a very spiteful person.”

He laughs. But despite being a project born to spite a dying scene, Scary Mercedes has seen no shortage of fresh material.  Bonica has released two EPs – “Ambulatory” and “Bird’s Can’t Hope” – both of which can be downloaded for free with links found below or on his Facebook page.

His main collaborator is local musician Jimmy Romero (Cazador, Broken Cartridge), though he often outsources instrumentation to other artists on a whim. It seems almost like a game, testing his ability to turn unrelated musical elements into gritty chemical compounds that frame his punchy, mathematical vocals.

“I like taking elements from other bands, just to prove that they can work together,” says Bonica.  “I’ve listened to a lot of new wave, like the Zom Zoms, but also more hardcore stuff like Every Time I Die, so I would wind up putting things like breakdowns into some of my songs.”

Bonica is wrapping up production on a new EP entitled “Chaos Engine,” set to release this spring.  Though busy with his own music, he says he still loves working behind the scenes.

“Everything is really secondary to mixing and recording,” he says. ” I would throw Scary Mercedes in the trash the second I had a real [recording] job to do.”


Download the first two EPs by Scary Mercedes here:
“Bird’s Can’t Hope”

Or visit the Scary Mercedes SoundCloud page for more.