Music Review
Modern Vintage
The Newbees

Modern Vintage coverModern Vintage is the name of the latest Newbees’ CD. This post is ostensibly a review of that CD but there’s some concert/venue/band/radio in the mix, too.

Over the last few years, WNKU has pretty much replaced another local NPR station in my heart and in my ears. I made it official a while back by donating a few bucks and becoming a “member”. Among other things, that put me on a mailing list that includes invitations to be part of the studio audience for their Monday night broadcast-live Studio 89 concerts. I finally got around to asking for a seat for the fourth concert of the current series. I made the cut.

The performers at that October 8 concert would be the Newbees. I’d heard of the band but didn’t really know much about them. Before sending in my request, I spent a little time on the internet learning that this was a group I’d almost certainly like. Online videos include things like the quintet doing a bunch of Beatles tunes backed by a high school orchestra plus plenty of performances of original material. This was not your run of the mill garage band.

The setting for the Studio 89 concerts is inside a room called the Griffin Hall Digitorium. I believe digitorium translates to “really cool and intimate state-of-the-art place for concerts”. Counting the attendees would have been easy but I never got around to it. I was part of the group occupying three rows of theater style seats facing the stage. Each row has maybe 10-15 seats. Between the seats and the stage are some tables where host Pam Temple and a few VIPs sit. That space is also home to video cameras and other gear. I have no idea how or when the multi-camera video is used.

And now, at last, some words about the CD. It makes me smile.

A Modern Vintage CD release party had been planned for Saturday, October 6, during the grand opening weekend of a new/relocated venue, Southgate House Revival. Last minute construction issues caused that to be cancelled on Friday so the Studio 89 appearance was something of an introduction for the CD and very much a disappointment reducer for the band. The five core members were psyched and ready and so were the half dozen (3 horns, 3 strings) backing musicians. I’d heard one cut on the radio and a couple on the internet but I heard more of the CD’s songs for the first time as they were broadcast live from the Digitorium. They sounded great and, with a CD obtained after the concert, I could later verify that they sounded “just like the record”.

The CD’s title is a good one. I said that it makes me smile and part of the reason is the music’s “vintage” aspects. It’s more of a vintage feel than a vintage sound. The songs are new. The sound is “modern”. Some of the tunes do remind me a bit of stuff that came from my AM radio “when I wore a younger man’s clothes”. They’re not the same songs. They’re not knockoffs of those songs. They don’t even sound quite like the songs from my youth. But they do feel like them.

All five Newbees write. Visit the Bio page of their website and you’ll see them distinguished by their primary instruments; two guitars, bass, drums, keys. Then they are all tagged with “Vocals” and “Songwriter”. The packaging doesn’t identify who wrote individual songs on the CD but there is no doubt that everyone contributed. It really does seem like a musical team.

Tracks range from dance-able rockers like Up All Night and Don’t Knock It (‘Til You Try It) to sway-able stuff like Nevermore and Goodbye Sun. Some are really “sticky”. In the last week, I’ve frequently heard Medicine Show, Nobody to Blame, and others playing inside my head. Though some pretty serious topics appear (Medicine Show immediately comes to mind), the entire CD has a fun feel. I’ve often said that nothing helps me like music more than knowing the folks producing it are having fun. I saw the Newbees having fun on stage and I can hear them having fun on this CD. That is, of course, another reason it makes me smile.

It is almost impossible to write about the Newbees without bringing in the Beatles. Over the years, the group has put a lot of time and energy into faithfully reproducing Beatle tunes and they’ve impressed crowds at nostalgia fueled events like Abbey Road on the River. They even included some Beatles in the off the air conclusion of the Studio 89 concert. This aspect of the band was in my mind as I listened to Modern Vintage for the first time. I guess I was actually listening for the Beatles but I didn’t quite hear them. I heard songs the the Beatles could have done and some that I told myself could have fit on this or that specific album. I did not hear copies or knockoffs. By the second or third listening I was hearing the Eagles, Leon Russell, Paul Simon, and probably every other musician who, along with the Beatles, influenced the members of the Newbees. I’m pretty sure that Find, the CD’s final cut, could have been covered by Peter, Paul & Mary. The Newbees are indeed a great Beatles cover/tribute band but they are so very much more.

Things came together at Southgate House Revival and the “Rescheduled Album Release Shindig” is, according to the Newbees site, set for November 21 though it’s not yet shown on the Southgate House Revival site. Hope they catch up soon so I can order my ticket.

UPDATE: 27-Oct-2012 – The Southgate House Revival site did catch up and tickets are available here. However, just as I was about to place my order, an email arrived telling me that Cincinnati legend Larry Goshorn would be playing a retirement gig that same night. I’d love to catch the Southgate party but Larry’s “farewell” wins this conflict. Good luck, Newbees, with the CD release. I know I’ll see you in the future.

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